Building Heroes

Introduction

Several years ago, Lego ran three or four Kids Fest events across the country.  We visited the local one in Connecticut three years in a row.  Then, they moved that one to Ohio for a year.  It must not have done well there because they brought it back.  We missed that revival, but no big deal.  We figured that we could just catch it the next year.

Surely, by now, you must know us well enough that when a paragraph ends like that the next one is most likely going to begin with the tragic story of how we did not get to go the next year.  And, so it was.  After that event, Lego killed the Kids Fest.  We have our suspicions that they stopped sponsoring the event because they put one of their Discovery Centers in Boston.

Besides, if the Sox have taught us anything, it’s that “next year” often doesn’t come for a long time.

I can’t confirm that it’s true that the Discovery Center is the reason for no more Kids Fest.  However, Aide, Quinn, and I ended up visiting the Discovery Center one day during the spring and it doesn’t compare at all to the Kids Fest.  Don’t get me wrong.  They had a blast and there was plenty of Lego fun to be had.  However, we often spent the entire day at Kids Fest.  We covered the Discovery Center in less than three hours.  We could have stretched it, but not by much.   Second, we went to several times to the Kids Fest.  I don’t foresee us ever going back to the Discovery Center.  Of course, we might.  I just don’t see a reason.  Perhaps over the winter when we are all in full “Shining” mode.

No Legos makes 2 Generations Gaming something something….

The reason that I even mention all of this is that Kids Fest introduced us to a wide variety of new products and may have gotten the boys started on their interest in the toy.  Yay, Capitalism!  We learned about Ninjago during that first Kids Fest.  Aiden and Quinn both still love the show and sets to this day.  We went to the movie in the theater on opening weekend for family movie night.  However, more relevant to this article is that is also when we discovered Heroica.

The Good

Lego sold the game as a family event with the strategy of a board game and the creativity of Lego.  You probably think that this is where I counter argue against the claim.  First, you will probably never hear me disparage Lego.  Second, this is the “good” section and those are both very goo things about the game.

At the heart of Heroica is a board game.  You roll dice and move pawns.  Aside from that, there are RPG elements to the game.  You collect weapons and armor.  Enemies guard treasure chests full of gold and potions.  Ultimately, the winner is the one who defeats the “boss” of the level.

Just do whatever you are supposed to do 3 times in a row, right? Easy Peezy.

While those added elements alone give Heroica a leg up on traditional board games, I haven’t even touched on the Lego aspect of the game.  We have three or four of the sets.  They come with instructions to build them and all of the pieces just like all Lego sets.  Also, like Lego sets, you can choose to build them differently or set them up in a different order.  Quinn, most recently, took the opportunity to show off his creativity by building his own levels for his own game.  Usually, though, we set the game up as indicated by the instructions.  Still, it is nice to know that the option exists.

The Bad

It appears as if we were only of only a few families that thought the game looked intriguing enough to buy because it was discontinued shortly after release.  I remember looking for new sets and finding that there were new sets and the old sets were only available on eBay.  If there’s one thing I know about Lego, it is that they will not pass up an opportunity to make money.  So, unless there is a secret underground of Lego builders that has been developing new Heroica levels, the game is most likely dead.  Come to think of it, after I finish this article, I might take a look to see if that exists.

It’s a shame that the game got killed so early.  Because, it really is a fun game.  We haven’t played it for a few years, but after buying it, we were playing one every other week.  I already mentioned in the previous paragraph that we liked it so much that we wanted more only to make that terrible discovery that it had been killed.  (Note:  I couldn’t even make it to the end of the article.  Homebrew Heroica may exist!)

That development makes the sting less severe.  Knowing that there might still be life in the old game inspires me to dig out the other levels and see what pieces are still intact.  As I mentioned, Quinn was playing with them a few weeks ago, so who knows the condition of any of the games.  But, you may hear/see Heroica being played in the 2GG household soon enough.  From every bad, there is a good.

The Ugly

I mentioned that before we play, I will have to make sure that all of the pieces are there.  I have ordered replacements before and they were less than what people are charging on eBay for the sets, so it isn’t that big of a deal.  That brings me to a thought.  Perhaps people didn’t buy the games because they realized that they could build each set with Legos that they had lying around the house and didn’t need to spend the extra cash on the game itself.

Woah! I think I might have stumbled on something here. This thing is big. It goes straight to the top! Lego killed Heroica by making their toys flexible enough to create Heroica without needing Heroica. I have to get to the bottom of this!

That may be why the game fell out of favor with us.  We were going to Lego Kids Fest when the big boys were much younger and they didn’t exactly treat the games with the utmost of respect.  Being around Quinn’s age, they lost pieces and as parents, we lost our patience more than once at opening the box and not having the proper pieces for the game.  It’s the ages old story told in the Lego movie where parents easily lose sight of the forest for the trees when it comes to everybody’s favorite building toy.  Still, the game isn’t as much fun when there aren’t enough potions to collect or ogres to defeat.  It’s just built into the enjoyment of the game, in my opinion.

Having lost all of those pieces in such a short time, replaced them, and then lost them again was frustrating.  We put the games up in the game closet, forgot about them, and I honestly haven’t thought about it until this weekend when I was digging through the closet looking for games to bring to our weekend away and saw them in there.  At first, I though, “I should bring Heroica.”  Then, I remembered the possible missing pieces and left them behind.

The Verdict

Heroica was a fun game.  We got many hours of playtime from the game even as pieces went missing due to kids having too much fun!  It has been a few years since we’ve played as a family.  However, I got inspired to play it again when I saw it in the closet.  That led me to write the article, discover that there are possible homebrew sets for the game, and this all means that what I said earlier was true.  Keep an eye and an ear out for more Heroica coming soon!

 

Comics Round Up: World’s Finest

Introduction

At this point, I don’t think that I even have to mention that I’ve been back into comics since the Secret Empire event sucked me back in.  However, even I am surprised that I’m still reading them now that the event is over.  I didn’t last much past Civil War during my previous comics phase.  We will obviously see if this current run continues, but I haven’t missed a week in nearly three months and getting a steady paycheck through December means that I probably won’t for the foreseeable future.

Justice League

The Good:  I wasn’t terribly impressed with the first issue of this story arc.  It wasn’t terrible.  I just thought that they could do so much more with the premise.  ranted, it was an introductory issue.  I kept that in mind and I held out hope that it might get better.  This is usually where I say, “I’m glad I did” or “I shouldn’t have bothered”.  While I’m not sorry that I continued reading, I won’t quite say that I’m glad I did, either.  Wow, what a weird good section, right?  Don’t get me wrong.  The story is decent.  It’s just a bit too generic “coming back to the present to save the future” for me.

The Bad:  Well, if that’s “the good”, then there must be plenty of bad.  No, not necessarily.  Overall, the story isn’t good more bad.  It just sort of is.  With both Marvel and DC playing with the idea of a multiverse, alternate history, and reinvention, this is one story that really didn’t need to be told right now.  At least, it should have spent a little more time in development.

The Ugly:  Loo, I get that I’m a frustrated writer.  I also understand that critics are often failures in whatever they criticize.  That is why I’m very careful and overly positive in my reviews.  I’m not going to tear into this book.  But, as you’ve seen, I haven’t been able to give it the full stamp of approval, either.  For someone like me, that feels ugly and like it betrays my positive outlook on creative projects.

Justice League America

The Good:  Similar title, similar heroes, vastly different results.  This has been a much better book overall than the other Justice League title right now.  That is in spite of not focusing too much on the main heroes.  Maybe it is because they haven’t centered the story around them.  I mean, the book has Lobo in it.  The story revolves mainly around a character with size manipulation powers that travels to the “microverse” to find his mentor.  It controls the narrative by itself and lets the JLA do theri things in the background.  It plays much better than the Justice League title right now.

The Bad:  This one, too, started off a bit slow.  Like the other Justice League book, I almost didn’t give it more than one issue.  Seeing as how this is a recurring theme, I suppose that I just have to realize that DC arcs–other than their big ones–use the first issue to set the stage.  I will accept it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The Ugly:  Speaking of Lobo, I’m glad that he has only a small supporting role.  Similar to Deadpool, I can only tolerate Lobo in small doses.  Anything more and the schtick just gets tired.  Kudos to DC for recognizing my aversion to the character and writing specifically for me.  Otherwise, it could have gotten ugly.

Wonder Woman/Conan

The Good:  As far as I know, this is an original story, which is hard to find in a medium that has been around for 70? 80? years.  Furthermore, it is an entertaining blending of the two mythologies.  Of course, I’m not a comic book scholar, so this might have been done before.  Alsok if I’m being honest, the story is simply an alternate telling of the Wonder Woman origin in the context of the Conan world.  Still, the first issue was good.

The Bad:  As I jus wrote, they may have done this crossover before.  Now that I think about it, I’m sure they must have done this a least one other time during the “wild and crazy” 90s.  I’m too lazy to Google right now.  If so, then there’s no shock here.  If not, or if there are new fans due to the movie, then the retelling of the Wonder Woman origin might turn some away.

The Ugly:  Look, I know the rather sordid background of Wonder Woman.  More specifically, a few months ago, I read an article about some of the stuff that her creator wrote into the book because of his “preferences”.  The end of this book, while not fully embracing the roost of the character, came uncomfortable close to those dated and ugly themes.

Wonder Woman

The Good:  While the stand alone title has not been as good as it was in the beginning when Greg Rucka was writing it, the lastest storyline has grown on me over the last few issues.  As mentioned earlier, an all too familar refrain with DC arcs is that the first issue is very weak.  Since that introduction, the story has improved enough to keep me buying a book that I thought might end up only being “I bought this for Greg Rucka.”

The Bad:  I hate to harp on a point over and over, but DC really has to work on their intro issues for new stories.  As a frustrated writer, I understand that stories have a certain structure; introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution.  I also understand that ever since Brian Michael Bendis changed the format, comics are all about setting things up for the eventual trades.  As a result, that first issues ends up being a throw away for the minor stories.

The Ugly;  I guess that, ultimately, my quarrel is with the structure of comics in the current era.  Since every story has to be a 5 or 6 story arc and there isn’t much room for the random one off issue.  Although, I will say that Batman did a successful one of team up with Swamp Thing that I thought was going to span multiple issues.  That’s how ingrained the thinking is.  I just wish that there were more of those and less focus on dragging their feet to fill the issue quota.  Oh well, something ugly that I’ll just have to live with for now.

Next:  That’s all we have time for in this review.  I’ll be back in a few days with my thoughts on how Aquaman is succeeding (or not) in taking back his throne, how Batman is dealing with a war between two of his worst enemies, and how another Batman is coming face to face with nightmares from other universes!