Marvel’s Secret

(Editor’s Note:  This secret is nothing like Victoria’s.  Although, it wouldn’t surprise me at this point if Marvel did a series where it was revealed that a major male character wore ladies underwear.)

I’m not a huge presence on social media.  Imagine my surprise then, when my feeds blew up a few months ago with the news that Captain America was a Nazi.  First, if that seems incongruous, you are not alone.  Along with many others, I took to Twitter (something I almost never do), to express my dismay at this development.

I also texted Chris about the news.  We had our usual “old man” conversation about the state of comics.  The stories aren’t as good!  It’s a dying medium!  They’ve run out of ideas and are just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks!  This is a dumb idea to sell more comics and it will probably backfire!

And, yes, you damn kids better stay off my lawn!

Our old man sensibilities might have been right on for some of that, but we were dead wrong on the point that it might backfire.  After reading the main comics, I went to the store to pick up some of the tie in issues.  Well, during that trip, I discovered that a few of them were sold out.  So, yeah, Marvel’s money making scheme has worked on more than just me.  Know that I’m not the only sucker still out there made me feel a bit better.

Obligatory spoiler warning:  Look, I don’t give 2 craps about spoilers, so this article will probably contain a buttload (an actual measurement by the way) of then.  Let this be your lone warning.

I’m pretty sure that issue #0 is a reprint of a previous comic.  Even if it is not, as a guy jumping in after almost 2 decades away, I was glad for the recap.  Plus, it is well written and the art is by Steve McNiven, so it is top notch.  It absolutely added to my enjoyment of the book.  Some artists distract from the story by going over the top and others are just bad, but not him.  I’ve always liked his work and I’m glad they put him on another major even book.  I’m a bit bummed that they don’t have him working with Millar to recreate the Civil War magic, but Nick Spencer is doing well so far as writer.

No snarky comment. Just admiration of his talent.

So, what is this great story that made even you jump on board with the Captain America, Hydra Supreme angle?  First, let’s all admit that we know that this isn’t going to last.  There will be some conclusion to bring Cap back to his Nazi hating self.  Sure, the even might finish with him in custody after Hydra surrenders or is otherwise defeated.  However, it’s only a matter of time before ol’ Steve Rogers returns.  In fact, it may have already happened.

Until they, they’ve given an outlandish, though not entirely implausible explanation for the transformation.  Bear in mind that when I say “implausible”, we are talking about a universe in which Hulk ripped Wolverine into two pieces and the top half had to crawl to the top of a mountain to retrieve the bottom half.  So, with that in mind, Red Skull apparently altered or recreated reality so that Captain America was raised from a young age as a Hydra agent.  He was destined t become the Hydra Supreme and did so through a takeover of SHIELD and eventually the entire country.

His plan included isolating a group of heroes in space against a neverending attack from Chitauri drones.  Another phase trapped a portion of Manhattan in a dark dimension.  By the end of issue #1, he had moved into DC to capture the White House.  I will say this about Hydra.  They probably keep the trains running on time.

Okay, I admit. That was in poor taste. I’m sorry.

Issue #1 explored the resistance a bit by introducing a character that gets “saved” by them.  There is also some development of the Cap character in that he is shown as little more than a figurehead as leader of Hydra.  I will keep this part in suspense because it involves a death, but Steve isn’t able to “pull the trigger” so to speak.

While the resistance story is expected and predictable, I’m intrigued by the Captain America angle.  In the past, Steve Rogers has been nothing if not committed to his values.  Even during Civil War, he was willing to play the villain and split the super hero community over his opposition of the Registration Act.  To see him conflicted to such a degree is both surprising and encouraging that some of the old Cap might be shining through the darkness.

This thread is tugged a bit harder in Issue #2.  We see that, in fact, Captain America ultimately did not make the fateful decisions in issue #1.  That fact weighs heavily on him and he feels a bit out of his element.  Black Widow does what she does and attempts to set off on her own, but she is quickly joined by others and they set up a new team to fight against Hydra and take down Cap.

Surely, you know me well enough to know that was all just an excuse to show Scarlett Johansson.

The issue ends with a moment that literally had me say, “Oh ****” out loud and cement my interest in the story.  I went from openly antagonistic to mildly interested in the main title to needing to buy all of the tie ins and read them, too.  They aren’t crucal to your understanding, but they do fill in nicely.  Plus, there aren’t a ton of them and the event is fairly short, so I don’t mind keeping up with them.

Look, I admit that I’m an easy mark.  I can usually find some redeeming quality about most creative projects.  But, this one is genuinely good.  I can’t nor won’t necessarily recommend the tie ins unless you have the extra money.  However, if you’re looking for a new series, getting back in after an extended break like me, or any other reason you might have, I say absolutely get the main series.  You won’t be disappointed.

Dice, Dice, Baby!

(Editor’s Note:  I avoided making the obvious inappropriate joke title for this article because we are trying to cultivate a family image here.  Plus, nothing brings in the youth audience like a 30 year old white guy rap reference!)

A couple of months ago, I was feeling the loneliness of the gamer who lost his usual gaming buddies.  I went through the usual stages of grief before Chris and I finally just said “Eff it” and got together a few times.  Kevin and I have talked about a gaming night here and there, but still haven’t been able to actually make it happen.  Part of it is that I’m not sure if the new computer can handle some of the games we play and I can’t yet afford a new laptop.  Oh well, it’s only a matter of time.

During my lonliness, I started researching games that I could play solitaire.  I tried to do a D&D campaign solo.  It was fun, but the real magic of RPGs is the interaction between different personalities.  However, during my search, I found an entire page dedicated to dice games that can be played solitaire.  Apparently, I’m not the only gamer who gets the shakes when I haven’t been able to meet with my buddies regularly.

I went to Amazon to buy another “pound o’ dice” since I only had about an eighth of a pound or so left from the original that I got a couple of years ago.  I downloaded a few of the game boards.  Yes, all of them were free to download!  I took a day or two to familiarize myself with the rules.  Then, I got to playing a few of them.

I typed “rolling dice” into Google and got this picture because, apparently, the only dice that exist are d6.

The Long Road to Reno

The Long Road to Reno (even though you’ll probably not make it!)

Okay, so this one uses only d6s, but I promise that they aren’t the only types of dice out there.  In fact, I have all manner of dice in my pound of dice.  There are d10s that I can use to play Marvel Super Heroes RPG.  There are d20s that I can roll initiative, saving throws, or THAC0!  There are d4s that I can use to stab you with my trust dagger in D&D if you don’t watch your mouth!  Wait, no, come back, I’m sorry.  I’m just trying to justify an insane purchase of a “pound o’ dice” and I took it out on you.  I’m sorry.

This game is tough!  I mean, I understand that games are supposed to offer a challenge, but I have played this game 3 or 4 times, and I rarely make it to that second green square.  I don’t know if I have the instructions wrong, I’m just unlucky on my rolls, or it is intentionally demoralizing, but my party gets gunned down, dies of starvation or heat stroke, or just wanders off into the desert in seeming record time.

For the record, I also played the sequel and lost badly in that one, too.  I mean, I like the games, and I have fun with the various scenarios presented by the die rolls.  However, I have yet to approach anything even remotely resembling a victory.  Perhaps I will try again when I got through another dry spell.

Dice of Arkham

The madness of the old gods beckons. Do you have what it takes to resist?

I’ll admit it.  If there were actually old gods who whispered sweet crazies into our ears, I’d probably eventually succumb to their madness.  I’m already pretty crazy as it is, so it wouldn’t take many “your family will abandon you” or “your toaster is plotting your demise” before I threw out the toaster and started walking around with an emergency blanket like Chuck from “Better Call Saul”.

In all seriousness, though, this game seems a bit more balanced than the d6 Shooters games.  I felt much more comfortable playing the game, that I actually had a chance to win, and that added to my enjoyment of the game.  I think that, between the three games that I got to play, this one was my favorite.  Maybe it was also due to the fact that it was a setting that I preferred.  I like cowboys, but I’ll always go for the fantasy/horror game.

Random Zombie Related Dice Names

There were a few games that revolved around killing and/or becoming zombies, depending on your preference, but I didn’t get around to playing them.  I will say that they all looked very entertaining and I will probably give them a chance in the future.  I’m a bit burned out on zombie stuff recently.  However, in the comic book store, I was trying to find where I left off on The Walking Dead comic.  I thought that I had sworn that one off for good.  But, it appears as if the bitey folk virus is infecting my brain yet again.

If you want to check out any of the games yourself, you can download them at Dice Game Depot (a good starting page) or Board Game Geek (a good resource overall for table top games).

Revisiting Amonkhet

(Editor’s Note:  When we last left Noob of All Trades in Amonkhet, he was losing multiple limited events in new and interesting ways.  Has that trend continued?  Tune in now to find out!)

Like the zombies that have become so revalent in the wake of the set, I rise from teh dead of my 0-2 draft and 1-2 sealed against Chris to find success in Amonkhet limited.  Writing my previous article inspired me to log back into MtGO and try my luck at another draft.  I’m glad that I did.  Having actually seen and played with and against the cards, I had a much better idea of what worked and what didn’t and why.

First, zombies are good.  Standard and limited events on the PT have shown that.  Because of that success, everyone knows and seems to draft accordingly.  Secondly, exert is probably the second easiest strategy to put together behind zombies.  -1/-1 counters can be good, but tough to make happen.  Then again, I did play against a guy earlier in a sealed event who both got the nut -1/-1 pool and then the appropriate hand to make it all happen in game 1, so it is possible.  I’m not entirely sure what the other color combinations might offer, so I’m no help there.

Apparently cycling is a thing? But, exercise and nerds just seems like a bad combination.

Still, armed with my little bit (you didn’t think I’d use the limited pun again, did you?) of knowledge, I put together a solid GW exert deck.  There were no bombs that I saw, so it was just the type of draft where you have to find the value cards.  Luckily, I found it in abundance in this draft.  I don’t remember how it started.  I think maybe GB or RB?

Pretty quickly, I pivoted and by pack 2, I was solidly in GW with a focus on exert.  That allowed me to keep a lazy eye on any possible zombies.  However, like I mentioned, there weren’t many to be found in the draft.  So, I just went with Plan A and it worked.  I blew my first opponent out of the water and beat the other in pretty convincing fashion, too.

I guess you could call the Sandworms or Angel bombs?

Buoyed by that success, I jumped into xMage for another draft.  I didn’t want to follow up my good mojo with potential bad mojo and actually spend “money” (new player points) to do it, so xMage seemed like the logical choice.  However, there was no bad mojo to be found that night.  I was so happy about this draft that I texted Chris about it.  “Damn, just drafted a sweet GR deck on xMage, but the game got corrupted.  Think I finally have the hang of this format.”

It’s too bad that the game did get corrupted because this deck was seriously insane.  I also texted to Chris that I had no idea what anyone else was drafting because there several packs where I had a tough decision to make and the card that I didn’t pick wheeled back around to me.  In this draft, after pack 2, I could have easily pivoted and started grabbing black value and put together any combination of green, red, or black and most likely gone 3-0 with the deck.  It truly was an embarrassment of riches.

I mean, just beautiful, isn’t it? *single tear of joy*

As I said, I really think I’m starting to get the hang of the format.  I still agree that it is a great set for drafting or sealed.  I will most likely use the rest of my new player points on two more drafts and I might even spring the cash for a sealed event.  I’ve enjoyed it that much.  If you’re not doing Amonkhet limited, you are missing out!

Noob’s History with Zelda

(Editor’s Note:  We did several of these last year with Mario.  However, while we dedicated an entire month to Mario, we’re only giving Zelda a single article.)

Only one article for Zelda, perhaps one of the most iconic video game franchises ever?  Look, this isn’t meant to insult Link and company.  I simply don’t have as extensive a history with Zelda.  Unlike Mario, which has gameplay simple enough that they made it into a mobile game, Zelda requires much more of a time commitment.  I’m no longer at a point in my life when I can devote weeks of my life playing a game for hours a day.

Oh, Skyrim. You were there for me when I was an unemployed stay at home day. Now that I’m working, I let you sit on the shelf and collect dust. Oh, cruel fates for us both.

I remember certain things vividly from childhood.  While that probably isn’t abnormal, some of my formative memories are strange.  For instance, I remember one Christmas trip to my maternal grandmother’s house.  Well, who wouldn’t want to remember holidays with family?  It’s not that.  Keep reading.  Overall, these trips weren’t terribly memorable.  Most of them, along with similar trips to visit my father’s family, are part of that amalgam of “holiday” memories that occupy space and occasionally bubble up into my consciousness.  Not this memory, though.

So, what’s so special about this Christmas trip and what does it have to do with Zelda?  Stick with me just a bit more.  I promise a pay off soon.  This isn’t just therapy time with Noob.  During this visit, I did what I often do during a big get together.  I searched for a quiet place to recharge.  That search led me to a room with a Nintendo (original NES) and I think a projector and pull down movie screen.  I may be making up that last part.  Either way, the game being played was the original Legend of Zelda.

I only know this screen from memes. Just another in my long line of nerd shame.

This nerd shame stems from the fact that, unlike Mario, I never actually played the NES Zelda game.  The first one that I played was the SNES classic “A Link to the Past”.  That’s when my actual “lifelong” obsession with The Legend of Zelda began.  The graphics are the SNES sprite based of my childhood.  The story rivaled that of Final Fantasy III, one of my favorites from that system.  I was hooked.

While I loved that game, it isn’t my favorite in the series.  That honor goes to Ocarina of Time.  I know that many people say that its sister N64 title, Majora’s Mask, is the superior title.  However, I’ve never played that one.  I know what you’re thinking.  How can you have a comprehensive history without one of the best games?  Well, first I never promised the complete history.  Just my history.

And, I’ve never been much of a historian.

Similar to the Mario title for the N64, it took everything great about the game and added a third dimension.  You had to worry about depth and height when fighting against bosses.  Dungeons, a multilayered affair in previous games, now gave the developer free reign and they took full advantage.  Also considered one of the most frustrating levels, the water temple is one of the most unique and innovative designs ever.

By not only giving your character the ability to swim, but also making it integral to the level design, Ocarina of Time achieved full 3D motion and showcased what the big deal was about 3D gaming.  I think I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating.  Even though 3D is the obvious current standard in video games now, there was a time when people argued against it.  One of their main arguments was that the camera angle and controls would go wonky every now and then.  Unfortunately, they usually had a point with N64 games.

After revolutionizing video games with the game pad, Nintendo started down the path of crazy controls with that console.

I’m pretty sure that I never beat that game.  I can’t say for certain because it was a while ago, but that was during a time in my life when I worked a ton, so it probably never got finished.  As an aside, now that I think about it, there’s not been a time in my life since I started working that I haven’t worked a bunch.  Okay, not exactly relevant.  Just had to get that off my chest.

The fact that I didn’t finish the game is not that big of a tragedy, either.  With the power of computers now at the level to allow for reliable N64 emulation, I can play the game any time that I want.  And, now, just writing about it, I actually want to play the game again.  Heck, I even have my USB N64 controllers!  Okay, I know what I’m doing over the next few days.

I can say that I’m going to do a video comparing the two and then not actually do the video.

My last stop on the Zelda train was Wind Waker.  No, I didn’t hate the game so much that I stopped playing them.  I know that the graphics were a huge controversy at the time, but I loved them.  I enjoy that Nintendo sometimes takes big risks with the title because familiarity can breed contempt.  I’m also glad that they didn’t make those graphics the standard because I’m enjoying the more realistic graphics of Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild as their systems get more powerful.  However for Wind Waker, the graphics fit in with the theme of the game perfectly.

Even though I never played Twilight Princess or Breath of the Wild, I’ve been keeping up with the series through those games.  Being a Nintenerd, I really want the Switch, but couldn’t justify the price tag right now.  However, they have announced a new 2D Street Fighter game for it.  Along with Breath of the Wild, a new Mario game, and the possibility of a new Metroid game, I suppose it is only a matter of time before I end up getting one.

Amon”Khetting Off on the Right Foot”

(Editor’s Note:  Okay, I fully admit that it might be time to retire this terrible dad joke headline gag that I’ve been milking for the past few articles.  This one really does go too far and I almost want to apologize for it.)

Chris already gave you his impression of Amonkhet, the new Magic the Gathering set, via his recap of the prerelease he attended.  Yes, you read that right.  We had 2 Guys Gaming!  We almost had another episode of that podcast in the can, too, but I wasn’t able to go over there because I wasn’t feeling well.  But, we will take any positives and who knows?  The podcast may be back soon enough.

I was not able to make it to this prerelease because it was Liam’s big weekend as Eugene in the local high school production of Grease.  But, no regrets and I got to live vicariously through Chris.  He kept me updated about his exploits via text.  you can read about it here.  Spoiler Alert!  He split the pot, but would have won.

While I wasn’t able to make it to the prerelease I was still very excited about this set.  As a filthy casual, I didn’t care much about cards, so I didn’t keep up at all on spoilers.  However, the lore based on ancient Egyptian civilization intrigued me.  I’m a sucker for ancient civilizations and their stories.  Therefore, I wanted to experience the set one way or another.

Then again, there are stories of Zeus dating his daughter, or some nonsense like that, so maybe those stories need to stay in the past.

Unfortunately, another obstacle stood in my way.  Spring semester has ended.  Summer hasn’t started yet.  So, I’m in between checks and can’t afford to join events either in real life or on Magic Online right now.  Luckily, I am practiced in the arts of cheap ass gaming.  I created a “new” account on MTGO, which gives new player points that can be used to join phantom drafts.  I don’t get to keep the cards, but I do get to play with them.

I did one draft this way.  Without having looked at spoilers much, I went into the draft mostly blind.  Armed with the limited (get it?!) knowledge, I went with the little bit that I did know.  Zombies are decent this block.  I forced BW embalm even after P1P1 a Glorybringer.  Yeah, I know.  Hear me out.

First, I find it humorous that both Chris and I pulled the dragon in our limited events.  He’s lucky to have an actual card in hand (well, deck, actually), while I only have memories of an 0-2 performance.  Should have done more research, I guess.

Draft is a cruel mistress.

So, how did I end up BW after drafting one of the great limited bombs of this set first?  Well, it’s a tale s old as time.  As old as people have been drafting, at least.  Red just dried the eff up.  I don’t know if there were to red bombs in the draft and the other guy just bullied me off.  When I say dried up, I am talking Sahara desert dry.  Sure, there was the oasis of the occasional good red card, but by that time I had switched gears to the zombies.

Don’t get me wrong.  The deck was decent.  Sure, I went 0-2, but the games and matches were all close.  Ever since I started taking Magic a bit more seriously, I can hold my own in most games.  But, it just wasn’t the “draft a bomb and win” that I thought it might be after the dragon.  It’s never that easy, is it?

More recently, I got to experience the prerelease life (sort of) by doing a sealed with Chris.  I bought my usual box and bundle.  So, instead of doing our Winchester draft as we had been doing recently, Chris suggested the sealed.  Neither of us opened a Glorybringer this time, but I got to finally see actual cards in action.

He went Naya exert for his deck.  I probably tried to do too much with BG counters/cycle, but it worked out for me game 1.  I flooded big time in game 2 and then saw a major threat pacified in game 3.  but, and let’s say it all together now.  “All three games were close.”

You know what losing makes you, right?

I had considered rebuilding or swapping pools, but Chris asked to play some modern, so I obliged.  Again, he beat me 2-1 with a Boros aggro against a “Fun Police” deck.  Apparently, it just wasn’t my night.  That’s okay, though.  I’ll get him the next time.  That’s how our matches seem to go.  Back and forth like that.

Also, I had fun.  The set is a good limited set.  There are a wide variety of viable archetypes in draft and sealed.  Heck, I think this is the first time that I was able to pivot from a bomb and put together a decent secondary plan.  Maybe that’s a result of me improving as a player?  Perhaps, but I do think that this is a great limited set.  I do have new player points for 3 more drafts.  We’ll see if I still think that after them.

 

I am Groot!

(Editor’s Note:  I won’t even bother to translate the title.  It’s just another lame Dad joke that is becoming an unfortunate legacy of the page. )

I’ve been waiting for this movie since I saw the first one.  Sure, Avengers, Dr. Strange, and Civil War are all cool, but my favorite book as a teenager was Guardians of the Galaxy.  Unlike many of these endeavors, I also liked the reboot and introduction of new characters.  Honestly, though, I was surprised that they made one movie for the Guardians.  The book wasn’t exactly an A-list title.  Moreover, not only have they made one film, but the sequel just released last week and before that one even came out, they announced a third.  My obscure comic fan boy heart is bursting with joy.

This one became a family event.  From the trailer, I knew it might be a bit dicey for the kids.  Unlike Deadpool, though, they marketed this one right at their younger audience. Like I said to Chris, I don’t think our 6 year old is the intended demographic.  But, you put a talking racoon and a baby tree creature in your movie and you get 6 year olds.  So, I went the day before to scout and make sure that it wasn’t too inappropriate.

I am Groot? Yeah, I know little buddy. I can’t believe some of the language in the movie either!

Maybe I’m too lenient, but it passed my filter.  Sure, there is some language that obviously scarred little Groot.  The movie also has some “mature themes”, as Aiden calls them.  He claims that he only knows what they are because he saw them on the video game label for Skyrim.  However, I don’t know what “mature themes” there are in that game, so he might be trying to buffalo me.  Either way, now that you know the potentially controversial topics, you can make your own decision.  The movie is PG-13 after all.  Now, on to the review!

The Good

At the risk of falling into too much of a pattern, I’m going to give this movie the same praise that I gave Power Rangers.  The best thing I can say about it is that it is Guardians of the Galaxy.  It takes what was great about the first one and improves almost all of it.  I said to Chris that the first Avengers movie was still the gold standard of Marvel movies, but this one might be my new favorite.  He remarked that Marvel movies often fall off from the original to the sequel.  I replied that certainly was not the case with this movie.

This movie is funny.  My cousin complained that they seemed to reach too hard for laughs.  The first time that I watched it, I actually thought something similar.  It was way over the top at times.  Not necessarily that they reached,  but that the movie was much funnier than the first.  During my conversation with Chris, I said it felt like Marvel learned their lesson from handcuffing Joss Whedon in Avengers 2 and now let their directors just do their thing once they’ve proven themselves.  So, while some might think he went overboard, I feel like it is in keeping with the absurdity of the characters.

I mean, honestly, look at this cast of characters. And, this doesn’t even include Howard the Duck.

Speaking of characters, in between the required humor and explosions there is an absurd amount of drama and character development.  I remember when Ang Lee tried to bring the “feel of comics” to The Hulk movie–with decidedly mixed results and reviews–but this movie plays very much like the comics that I knew and loved back when comics weren’t so damn expensive.  As an aside, though, I was attempting to sort my comics and it made me want to start collecting again.  I might just have to troll eBay or Craigslist for cheap lots.

Now, back to the review.  There is just so much good about this movie.  If you are a fan, you will enjoy yourself.  If you’re only watching because Marvel makes you watch movies like they make you buy comics during their mega crossover events, then it will be entertaining.  I question if it is particularly informative in the context of Infinity War (which is strange since the Guardians are supposed to play a pivotal role), but at least you will know who these characters are if that rumor comes true.  If you’ve already see the movie, go see it again.  Trust me, it’s just as good the second time.  Heck, I might even go see it one more time in the theaters because I enjoyed it so much.

Hey, I’m just as guilty of falling for the crossover. Secret Empire is part of the reason that I want to start collecting again.

The Bad

This movie is not technically kid friendly.  I already mentioned the swearing.  Personally, I don’t much care about swearing because they’ve heard worse at home.  Regarding the “mature themes”, the older boys are getting to the age when they will learn those things sooner rather than later.  I mean, no questions resulted, so I get the feeling that one already knows and the other had them go right over his head.  I know for a fact that the 6 year old missed them completely.  He only cared about the parts with Baby Groot.

But, for real, that mother fricker is damn cute. But I don’t usually say fricker.

So, it’s a bit dicey.  Especially if you are stricter about those topics than I am.  It isn’t excessive, though, and you just have to make your own decision.  I mean, you could always do what I did and watch it yourself to see if it is something that you can tolerate and handle.  Don’t let that stop you from seeing the movie, though.  Find a sitter and take the wife.  Or, if your wife is lame like mine, leave the kids with her and see it yourself or with friends.

The Ugly

Unlike Power Rangers, Marvel has had over a decade to find and walk that line between audiences for their movies.  Plus, as I already mentioned, they have movies planned through at least 2019 and a third Guardians movie already announced.  So, there’s no chance of one and done like I feared for Power Rangers.

But, I sort of painted myself into a corner with this new review format and now I’m stuck.  I have to come up with an “ugly” section or risk exposing myself as a fraud.  I guess the only ugly thing that I have to say about the movie is that I have to wait for the next one.  Sure, we have Avengers, some great DC movies, and at least one Star Wars in the interim, but they’re not Guardians of the Galaxy.  After this movie not only met, but vastly exceeded my expectations, I’m going to be through the roof for the third one.

The Verdict

This movie is awesome.  Go see it.  If you’ve already seen it.  See it again.  If you can’t wait for the third, watch the first one and then this one because 1+2=3.  I’m out of words to express just how much I love this movie.

Hot for HotS?

I stink at League of Legends.  Unlike other players who

  1. don’t know that they stink (and I’m not sure how they could possibly remain ignorant because the community is too willing to tell you.)
  2. are under the delusion that they can get better (and that may be)
  3. don’t care (this is most likely as I have both heard of and seen LoL trolls in action)

I know that I’m terrible, operate under the impression that I have almost no chance of getting better, and while I don’ t care that I’m bad, I also don’t have the time or energy to troll an entire community.  League of Legends just seems like one of those games that has been swallowed by the esports scene.  You either play it to “Go Pro, Bro”, spectate the championships, or don’t care one way or the other.  I am absolutely fine being in the last camp.

I don’t care about this thing! Now, let me get on the internet and type angrily about how much I don’t care!

So, why did I just spend an entire paragraph and number list talking about how much I don’t care about League of Legends?  Well, after stinking up the joint in that game, I did what most LoL burnouts do these days, I loaded Blizzards offering into the not-MoBA *wink, wink* genre, Heroes of the Storm.  As with most of Blizzard’s games these days, it gave players a noob friendly experience that more or less replicates the gameplay of the more established game.  They call it removing unnecessary elements to make the games more fun.  I call it stealing, or copyright infringement, at least.

Okay, I’ll ease up on the random Blizzard hate.  Because, I honestly like Heroes of the Storm.  Unlike League of Legends, I found a mode in HotS that allows you to play solo with bots to practice strategy.  As an added bonus, the mode allows for the completion of quests to gain gold and buy more heroes.  For a hopeless anti-social noob like me, that’s perfect.  Sure, it gets boring beating the AI all the time and occasionally I will venture into PvP mode.  It doesn’t last long because my incompetence shows very quickly.  However, unlike LoL (again), there isn’t a heap of abuse that awaits new or bad players.  Instead, other players are decent and many more than you’ll ever find in LoL are actually helpful.

Typed League of Legends noob into the Google machine to see if I could get an example of the abuse. This image came up, which I assume is supposed to be insulting. I, however, am such a neophyte to the game that I’m not entirely sure.

Now, why am I digging up ancient history with LoL and HotS?  I haven’t played either in months and don’t really miss my time in game.  Well, a couple of weeks ago, I saw that Blizzard was advertising Heroes of the Storm 2.0.  Instead of making some snarky comment about releasing unfinished beta as a completed game, I will keep an open mind and see what’s the big deal.

Upon logging in, there’s a huge splash screen announcing that they are officially out of beta.  Er, I mean, they’ve retooled the whole game and are now calling it the 2.0 version!  Then, you get some of the goodies that await you like player level, 3 (!) different kinds of currency, and two other things that obviously weren’t that impressive that I felt the need to remember them minutes later.  Oh, and lookie here!  Loot chests!  Woo hoo!  Opening stuff is fun!  In all seriousness, this feels like the loot chests from Deulyst and contains most of the same kinds of loot like emoji, “spray” (whatever the hell those are), and skins for the heroes.  All in all, I got some pretty decent stuff, including a legendary skin.  I will give it to Blizzard.  They know how to get you on that treadmill.

I always use treadmill, but I suppose that hamster wheel is more appropriate. If you work on a treadmill for long enough, you will start to see results.

The gameplay remains largely untouched, as far as I can see.  I’m sure they’ve done some “Blizzard balance” ™ on certain heroes and powers, but it still revolves around defeating your enemies, collecting various bonuses depending on the map you play, and killing the opposing base by whatever means necessary.  You can still play strictly AI games (though I didn’t have the patience to finish out the game and see if they still offer quest completion that way) so that’s a nice way to ease back into things.

Similar to LoL and many other multiplayer games these days, the esports scene has infiltrated HotS and there are competitive games.  So, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to get into the game as it is intended to be played.  However, if I’m bored some days and fed up with the other games that I usually play, I might fire it up and play a few games with the bots.  They are entertaining enough for limited interaction.

And, now, even as I’m writing this, I go exploring and find that they have several modes that are not competitive in nature.  Quick Match, Unranked, and Brawl are all modes for the filthy casual like me.  So, I fired up a Brawl match to see what it was all about and I got matched up against a single other player with bots filling in the rest of the team.  That seems to have been a one time occurrence and the second game was with actual players.  There wasn’t any of the abuse of League of Legends, we came back to win a very close match, and I actually had fun.

Overall, the positives outweigh the negatives and I will most likely be trying to rotate Heroes of the Storm into my daily routine.  One of my Hearthstone accounts might suffer for it, but that’s a risk that I’m willing to take.  Damn you, Blizzard.  Just when I think I’m almost out, you pull me right back in.

Not you, though. You stay dead and buried in my shameful, but glorious (no! do not give it power!), past.

Star Wars X-Wing: A New Hope…(that I get better at this game..)

A month or so ago I was chatting with Shawn through text and he mentioned that he had purchased a new game for him and the Gamer Bros to try, Star Wars: X-Wing.  At the time I wasn’t too intrigued as I knew it was a miniature game and our first foray into the genre wasn’t exactly a rousing success.  Heroclix had proven to be rather slow-paced due to our inexperience with the rules and all of the different powers.  Relax, all you Heroclix fans out there, I do think the game is probably really, really good once you get a feel for the rules, and opening up booster bricks is a blast.  Maybe one day we will revisit the game and give it another go.  We had also talked about trying Warmachine/Hordes but the price point is nuttier than squirrel crap and the rules seem a bit..intricate, yeah, we’ll go with that.  I do believe Shawn bought a starter set however so that’s something we will try as well. So many games, so little time.

Where was I? Ah, yes, X-Wing. Well, Shawn had told me that the games were essentially quick for the most part and that him and his boys really enjoyed it.  At the point my interest peaked and I made the comment that he should bring his starter set over the next time we had a nerd night. I watched a couple tutorial videos on the game and was surprised at how much strategy was involved and yet the game mechanics were fairly simple.  Last Friday, Shawn stopped over and true to his word, brought the game with him. I had honestly forgot about it and had my bag of Dicemasters rarin’ to go. Once I saw the little Tie Fighters I was sold. The detail on the ships is amazing and with Dicemasters now a distant memory,  we quickly got a game underway. I chose the Tie Fighters because, well, they’re frigging’ Tie Fighters and he took the X-wing. Since it had been a week since I had watched videos on the game, my head was still jammed full of budgets and accruals from work and I remembered a fraction of the information.  After a few turns I had the hang of it and was feeling pretty confident, until Shawn started referencing the rule book and we realized that we were playing with maybe half of the actual rules and were ignoring special abilities and maneuvers. Which would explain why it took so long for us to really get into any sort of meaningful combat. I mean if I had known about Barrel Roll, I would have absolutely…still lost the game.  But to be fair it would have went faster.  We had basically flown past each other the first 4-5 turns  with little to no action, but this would have been remedied by using all of the rules.

After he creamed me and left to go home, I hopped in my car to run an errand (ah, adulting, so much fun) and thought about the game on the way.  Truthfully, I wasn’t all that impressed with the game. Then I found myself reflecting on some of the maneuvers I had made and realized the misplays I made. It was at that point that I realized the potential the game had.  It was actual pretty entertaining and something I wanted to try again. I ended up spending some time on Youtube polishing up on the advanced rules and then went on EBay to see if I could get any decent deals on some pieces for it. Unfortunately, while it doesn’t have the price point of games like Warhammer and Warmachine/Hordes, it’s still on the pricey side.  I’m still eyeballing the Slave-1,  but it’s $30 for a little model; a very cool, detailed little model, but that’s quite a bit to drop on one piece.  I’ve told myself, as well as my bank account, that I’m going to wait to play a few games using all of the rules before I decided to buy in.  So will X-Wing make it into our regular rotation? Well only time will tell, with so many good games out there and not a ton of time during our nerd nights, it takes a really solid game to make a repeat appearance. However, from my time with it, X-Wing is a contender for a spot.

 

The Itch

Ah, comics…just the word brings back happy memories of sifting through bargain bins at a nearby sports card shop and of trudging every week to an office supply store in the center of town  that inexplicably carried Marvel Comics.  Ah, early 90’s, how I miss your $1.00 cover prices.

As I mentioned way back, maybe a couple of years ago, I had grown tired of my comic collection and decided to part ways with it via Craigslist. It seemed like digital comics were taking over and my comics were just sitting in boxes with just a few key Silver age issues on display in my man cave. To this day, it was one of the dumbest things I’ve done.  It’s one thing to sell a collection of Modern age books, but it’s another thing to sell a collection of Silver age. Those, well..you don’t sell those.  A few months ago, seemingly out of nowhere I got the itch.  You know what I’m talking about; that itch so deeply rooted in your brain that the only way to scratch it is by running out of your house screaming like a lunatic and buying that game, comic, miniature, ..etc that you just have to have.  For me, that itch was Tales of Suspense #81. It was my favorite cover from my old collection and I just had to own it again.

I figured that if I immersed myself in MTG and built some new decks, the comic bug would fade away.  It did not however, instead it intensified becoming a nerdy tornado of materialism..I couldn’t stop thinking about comics.  When I was at work, I was reading CBR.com and Newsarama.com articles. At night I would spend hours traveling through page after page at collectors-society.com, (You want to get hooked on comics? Go there. You’ve been warned.). Finally, in an effort to regain my sanity I logged onto eBay and found a copy of TOS #81 for $12 and bought it. No auction or “make an offer” bullcrap for me, I just bought that sucker.  It was mine again.. that’s all I needed just that one issue…wait, what’s that? Tales to Astonish #91 with only a few seconds left?! Mine! House of Mystery #219?! For $6.00?! Mine! Oh man! I loved the McFarlane run on Amazing Spider-Man! Issue #318! Mine! It was a long night that night. I was exhausted the next morning at work but not as exhausted as my bank account.

A couple of days later, I found myself standing in Newbury comics with my better half, Caitlyn, eyeballing the newest issues on the shelf. I wasn’t sure I wanted to jump back into collecting new books just yet, but she convinced me to do so. She said that it makes me happy so it’s worth the inflated cover prices.  She also made me proud by buying herself a Thor infinity scarf.  It didn’t take much convincing for me to jump back in head first. After only a few minutes I had accrued about $40 worth of comics.  Thankfully, it was a Monday evening and they have a BOGO sale on Mondays (you’re welcome, corporate guy at Newbury..could we get some swag?), so my wallet didn’t take a beating.  Honestly, it was fun to buy comics again, I had never stopped reading them, but there is something about the hunt for that one issue, the interactions you have with fellow collectors, and of course the feeling of holding that book in your hand and not just viewing it on an iPad (iPad plug, Apple, send a couple our way). I also noticed that there is more of a diverse audience for them. Just by being in Newbury for 30 minutes, I saw men, women, kids, all flipping through comics. This is probably due to the emergence of comics in mainstream media via movies and tv shows. I think it’s fantastic that people are finally understanding that comics are not just for kids.  Now if the publishers could just stop the reboot nonsense, we would be golden. As for me, I’m proud to say that I’m a collector again.  My goal is to regain most of the Silver age issues I sold and build from there, maybe it’ll happen and maybe it won’t but regardless it’ll be fun to try.

 

 

Amonkhet Prerelease

A couple of weeks ago, a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to attend the Amonkhet prerelease with him.  To be perfectly honest, my first reaction was “Nope”, but lately I have been guilty of being anti-social so I agreed.  It was my first prerelease so I didn’t know what to expect exactly.  I figured that it was just a handful of players cracking five or six packs, eating some free pizza and playing some casual games.  I had no idea that it was a tournament and also that there was going to be a fairly large turnout.  I assumed that most people are like me and choose to spend their Sunday afternoon silently crying about having to go to the office the next morning.

I was floored when I walked into my LGS,(that’s local game store for all of you not in the “know”), and every table was full of players waiting for the signal to crack their packs.  I grabbed my prerelease box, spotted my friend, who had saved me a seat, and sat down with a confused look. He then filled me in on how a prerelease actually goes, which was essentially that it was slightly more competitive than I had thought.  I had been doing sealed drafts with Shawn lately (we actually had done one the week before), so I was feeling pretty good about it.  We were given the signal to start building our decks and the place went quiet except for the frenzied tearing of wrappers.

My first pack made the choice for me, I pulled a Glorybringer, which had been my personal pick of the set during the Amonkhet spoilers. A 4/4 flyer with haste AND a Mizzium Mortars built in one is a limited bomb and, spoiler alert, it served me well the entire tournament. The other packs were decent, as I also pulled a Hazoret, as well as some other green and red cards that solidified my choice of RG aggro.  I decided to splash white for some defense, which was actually a poor choice as I barely played one white card the entire tournament except when I was discarding them to play Bloodrage Brawler (1R, 4/3, Discard a card when it comes into play).

I won’t give a game by game play by play, but I’m proud to say that I represented 2  Generations Gaming the best I could. I lost one game out of the 4 matches, and that was to a mirror-match. I reached the finals and my opponent and I agreed to split the grand prize as it was late and we both didn’t want to sit through another 2-3 games. We then  decided to play one game after claiming our prizes (10 packs of Amonkhet), in order to see who was the actual winner.  After several turns of us both being flooded, I drew a Glorybringer, broke the stalemate, and on my next turn, played a Scaled Behemoth, pumped it up and used Fling to end the game.

After it was all said and done,  I sent Shawn a text letting him know that I had won.  He had always said that we could really make some noise in competitive play so it was nice to prove him right.  Regardless of winning or losing , I would do a prerelease again, it was fun, and the fact that everyone was on equal footing  made the games interesting.  With that said, there were some things that could have been improved on.  The 50 minutes given to us to construct our decks felt a little excessive. Shawn and I usually construct our sealed decks in 20 minutes so I basically sat around, waiting for people to finish building. The time between rounds waiting for the next brackets to be posted also felt slightly long. I think with slightly decreased wait times, I would try to make every one, but I just don’t have the free time to sit around for 5 hours.  To be fair, I did use the wait times to peruse the X-wing miniatures, since I had been talking about the game the night before with Shawn…but more on that later…