God Among Sims

Introduction

I’ve played The Sims since the beginning.  I was always a fan of the other Sim titles, most notably Sim City.  I also played Sim Tower quite a bit and tried many of the others.  However, I always came back to Sim City.  In fact, one of the first games I downloaded for my phone was the Sim City game.  I still play it almost daily.

When I heard that they were going to release a game that focused on the strange speaking denizens of those cities, I was excited.  There’s just something about being in charge of virtual lives that appeals to me.  I owned a Furby and Tomagachi.  heck, I even got sucked into that silly “Chao World” mini game for Sonic Adventure.

I can still hear the voice, haunting my dream, asking me, “Why? Why did you let them die?” in an accusatory whisper.

In preparation for the relaunch of Noob and Sons, I played the latest version of the game, The Sims 4.  The boys played a lot of it last year and over Christmas break.  I wanted to take advantage of that interest to do our first show back on role playing.  I also wanted to see what advances they’ve made in Sims technology.

The Good

Customization:  As soon as I started the game, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices it gives you for characters.  The game was always about letting you choose how your character looked and giving him or her a personality to match.  However, they have taken that to the extreme in this game.  You can change every aspect of your Sim’s looks and that isn’t an exaggeration.  I spent about a half an hour just exploring the character creation screen before even playing the game.

No, you can’t customize everything. Actually, I’m not sure if you can change the naughty bits. You are going to have to figure that one on your own, perverts.

Helpful Tips:  No game is complete anymore without a tutorial section.  Ever since developers realized that nobody reads directions and got sick of email, DMS, and tweets asking them how to play their games, they’ve simply programmed the first 5-10 minutes of the game to be about how to play the game.  The Sims are less intrusive than most games and they just have helpful tips that pop up every now and then to remind you what you’re doing just might cause your Sim to die by some horrific way or another.

An iPhone for Every Sim:  Back in my day, you had to wait for a paper or not build a toilet in your house (because a mop was free) so that you could afford a computer to search for jobs.  Not so anymore.  In keeping with the times, your Sim has a smart phone that they can use to find a job.  Furthermore, you are no longer limited to one or three jobs depending on your method of finding one.  Now, you can choose from an array of jobs right from the start, so you can get right to improving your Sim’s life.

How long until Sims from the first game start complaining how out of touch these Quatros Sims are with their cell phones and their more robust work environments?

Other Quality of (Simulated) Life Enhancements:  As you go along and do things, you gain access to new skills that you can then train up like normal.  For instance, the other day, I sent my Sim out to trim a flower or something and she gained the gardening skill.  I now assume that I have to continue to do things to improve that skill as I do normally, but I’m not sure what those things are yet.  Even so, it is fun to have those Easter eggs that pop up simply from going through your day as a pretend human being.  Sort of makes me wish things like that happened in real life.

Upgrade From “Live” Mode:  Again, it used to be that you had to open a whole new mode if you wanted to upgrade your bed, toilet (once you upgraded the first time from a mop), or dishwasher.  Now, if you right click on the object, the menu will give you the option to upgrade the item.  I haven’t tried it yet to see if it still takes you into the “build” mode to do so.  But, just being able to click the item and not having to search through the “build” mode menu is a great upgrade to the game experience.

The Sims Resource?:  All this discussion of items, upgrading, and building new things made me think of one of the reasons that I enjoyed The Sims 2 so much and maybe didn’t like The Sims 3 (or at least, I didn’t see a reason to upgrade the number), is that there was this great resource (pun fully intended) web page that allowed you to download new things for the game.  I went to search for it and it is still there.  But, I think that Maxis might have built something right into the game that allows people to mod items.  I kept getting a notification the other day when I played, but I didn’t follow up on any of them to see if that’s actually what it is.  I will have to play again and verify before we record so I don’t sound like a total moron.  Well, no more than usual.

The Bad

No Needs? (Oh, there they are):  One of the most fun things about The Sims is that they are driven by 6 basic needs.  You have to balance the day so that all of the needs get met.  Otherwise your Sim becomes unhappy or even dead.  Admittedly, there is some perverse pleasure in intentionally killing your Sim in increasingly more violent and ridiculous ways.  But, that comes later after you’re bored of them and ready for a change.  Until then, you want to keep them alive and happy.

It’s especially cool when your Sim comes back from the dead to haunt future generations.

At first, I thought they might have gotten rid of that part of the game.  As it was such an integral part, I wondered how that might work and how the game would be any good.  Why eat if you don’t have to eat?  Why sleep if you aren’t tired?  Then, I noticed that things were still affecting my Sim, so I thought that maybe they had hidden them from people to make you pay more attention to your Sim and his/her actions.  Turns out that it just was hidden as a menu option where I didn’t expect it.  So, only bad for a brief period of time, but it did make me question my purchase for that time.

Food costs money?:  This might have started with The Sims 2, but I don’t remember at this point.  All I know is that I was shocked to open the fridge and see that I had to pay money to buy the food to cook it.  Furthermore, I couldn’t even make some dishes because I didn’t have the proper ingredients and I have no idea how to go about getting those ingredients.  So, my poor Sim has nothing to eat aside from grilled cheese and cereal.

Being Bad Has Consequences:  I’m not talking about Jessica Rabbit “bad”, though that might have consequences, too.  I don’t have enough Sim friends nor a boyfriend to see if talking bad about them behind their backs or lying/cheating on your significant other will actually affect your Sim or their mood.  However, if you do something terribly, then it will affect your Sim.  For instance, my Sim cooked a bad meal and was in a funk for a few hours.  Another time, she slept weird in her bed and was off the next day.  These are cool little touches that make the game more interesting.

Oh well, nothing can defeat the Homer Simpson philosophy. Alcohol, the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.

The Ugly

At the end of the day, it’s still simulated human life.  And, I think that we can all agree that real life isn’t all that great to begin with.  You wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, maybe have an hour or two to yourself, go to bed, rinse, and repeat until you go crazy out of boredom or go through a mid life crisis.  Which, I guess, is just a reaction to 35-40 years of a boring life.  So, honestly, how much more exciting can they make simulated life?  The answer, unfortunately, is not more exciting at all.

The Verdict

Not much has happened in Simsville over the years.  Everything that was great about the games is still great about the games.  There have been some quality of life improvements, but most of the parts of the game that weren’t fun still aren’t fun.  Life, as we all too often learn, just isn’t as amazing as the magazines and social media profiles of jet setting young trust fund babies would have us believe.  It’s mostly just going to work so you can afford to buy a toilet and don’t have to pee your pants any more.

I still love and enjoy the game.  The boys, when the mood strikes them, will play for hours and laugh and giggle as their Sims do silly things that they’d never consider doing.  Wait until their older and the realize that is happiness sucking, soul crushing life and the Sims are closer to reality than they ever expected.

Enjoy it while you can, Kids.

Okay, I don’t want to end this on a downer, but I also don’t want to ruin the joke.  I don’t care as much about the joke as I do about keeping things positive, so here goes.  I will continue to play the heck out of The Sims 4.  I haven’t gotten as into it as I was when I was younger, but that’s mostly because I’m older now and free time is much less abundant than it once was.  However, I’d like to follow a Sim family through several generations and see where that leads.  Coming Soon to Hulu?:  Pinky’s Family!

Comics Books: How Marvel is Killing the Industry One Gimmick at a Time

For the last few months, I’ve been in denial. In denial of the slow decline of comics. There, I said it: Comics are declining. Shawn had texted me a couple of times in the past saying as much once he left the hobby behind. I didn’t want to believe it, and in those cases agreed with his observations but not necessarily that the entire industry was in trouble. After all, DC Comics was still putting out quality books. Well folks, the industry is in trouble. DC Comics is still chugging along producing really great stuff (Batman, Batman: White Knight, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Dark Nights Metal), but Marvel Comics has stopped pulling its weight.

If you remember it was only last August that Marvel announced their “Legacy” initiative after Secret Empire concluded, which was essentially just a fancy term for going back to original numbering on their line of books and “bringing the fun back to comics”.

I gritted my teeth and said, “Ok, it feels like a reboot-ish thing but I’ll try a few titles out.”

I fell under the spell of the Lenticular covers, fully aware that it felt all too familiar. It felt like the same mistakes that were made back in ’96, when the industry essentially collapsed and Marvel declared bankruptcy. Gimmick covers, reboots, character deaths,..etc, it turned off both the casual reader and the collector. Cripes, I still remember standing in line just to pick up Superman #75 because it was the end of Superman. At that point we were not yet conditioned to the fact that a death isn’t a death in comics. A little while later after enduring the painfully crappy “Funeral for a Friend” crossover and the god-awful Four Supermen crossover, Superman was alive and well and the industry was, well, not.

So what happened this fall? Marvel puts out their fancy little covers and we all flock to buy them. Wrong. We actually didn’t all run out and buy them. I mean, I did because I’m an idiot but a majority of people realized that a cover doesn’t matter. It’s what’s between the covers that matters. And what was between those covers was of the same quality that existed before Legacy, and that quality wasn’t great in comparison to what DC was putting out. Sure, there were a few good storylines, but as a whole Marvel was in trouble.

One of their most talented writers, Brian Michael Bendis, decided to jump ship and joined the competition. He later revealed that Marvel tried to convince him to stay by offering him a Deadpool or Wolverine book. Typical Marvel. This brings me to my next point: riding the hype wave of a popular character until people stop caring. How many Deadpool books can they pump out? Again, sins of the past..Do you remember how many Wolverine books were around in the 90’s? How many cameos he had in other books? It was mind-boggling. Deadpool is being treated the same way. You can’t base an entire company off of one frickin’ character. I’ll be honest with you, DC is starting to fall into the same trap with Batman. Since Scott Snyder wrote the hell out of the “New 52” series and sold a ton of books, there has been a real focus on Bats in the DC Universe. Are the books good? Absolutely. Just yesterday, I told Shawn to give White Knight a try. However this doesn’t mean that every month there should be a new Bats series, and its starting to be that way. DC just released Brave and Bold: Batman & The Wonder Woman #1 as well as Batman: Sins of the Father #1. That’s two new titles in the same month. So while DC is putting out better quality, I do get worried that they will fall into the same traps that Marvel has.

One thing they haven’t done is raise their cover prices, which in the end is what most people care about. They even lowered the price on their Dark Nights Metal books once they saw that the sales were so great for the first two one-shots a dollar. Maybe it’s just me but that shows that they listen to and appreciate their audience. I read an interview with Marvel chief Joe Quesada where he takes the exact opposite approach and defends the $4-$5 cover prices essentially saying that the fans have enjoyed underpriced books for too long and Marvel charges what they think the creativity in their books is really worth. My guess is that he feels untouchable because Marvel Studios is an absolute juggernaut in the box office, and soundly kicks the bajeezus out of DC. Fun fact: Did you know that Black Panther has already surpassed Justice League in total domestic sales in its first week?! So while, Quesada might feel untouchable in that aspect of the business, he, unfortunately for him, only runs the comic side. The lesson that is being learned as we speak is that movie viewers do not turn into comic readers.

So how does Marvel try to remedy this problem? By rebooting. Over and over again. Y’know to give any new readers a “jumping on point”. So in May, coincidentally when Avengers: Infinity War is due to release, Marvel is going to, yup, reboot again! All that Legacy “bringing the fun back to comics” stuff? Gone! Long-term readers? Eh, go screw! I don’t understand the mentality of this decision. Do they really think that because a gazillion Avengers tickets will be sold that it will translate into a gazillion issues of Avengers #1 being sold? What happens when the second Avengers: Infinity War flick is released? Another reboot? This logic alienates current readers in order to possibly attract new ones, which obviously hasn’t worked.

They are calling this upcoming reboot their “Fresh Start” initiative. (Shakes head)

After many conversations with Shawn combined with the points I’ve made above, I believe that your buddies at 2 Guys has a solution to save the industry, or at the very least, save Marvel Comics.

-Drop cover prices to $2.99 to be even with DC. Your books currently suffer from low quality writing and art, so the excuse of us having to pay for their creative value holds no water.
-For the love of ****ing God stop rebooting.
-Hire some new talent, get some unknown pencillers, some unknown writers, colorists,..etc, who knows? You might discover the next Scott Snyder or David Finch.
-No more Lenticular covers, no more shiny covers, hell, I wouldn’t be sad to see variants go away in general.
-No more cheap gimmicks like mish-mashing ****ing characters like “Weapon H” or “Red Goblin”. Do we really need another Wolverine-like character? No. No, we don’t.

Well, that’s my two cents as far as the comic industry goes, agree? Disagree? Let me know. I think that one thing we can all agree on as comic fans is that our hobby needs to be protected from cash grabby schemes and we deserve better than what Marvel is selling us. DC? Well you’re doing fine, but watch those Bat books and the foil covers, we’ve got our eyes on you….

Rapid Fire!..Random Thoughts 2/19

-To buy a box of M25 or not? I wish the spoilers were flowing a little more freely since the boxes are below $200 at the moment and while the thought of possibly pulling a Jace, the Mind Sculptor out of a pack is dancing in my head, it’s not quite enough to make me jump and preorder. My prediction for the big ticket cards in the set: Enemy fetches, Tarmogoyf, Aether Vial, Liliana of the Veil, Wurmcoil Engine, Force of Will, Mana Drain and Crucible of the Worlds.

-The first DLC characters for Dragonball FighterZ have been announced; Borly and Bardoc. Bardoc is Goku’s pops so it’s essentially another Saiyan which is a little disappointing. While I have gushed uncontrollably about the game, I do wish they would bring in some more non-Saiyan characters. On the other hand Borly should be the largest character in the game so it’ll be interesting to see how powerful the character actually is.

-A Japanese bike company (Khodaa-Bloom) designed a really cool Megaman themed bike. It can be yours for the low, low price of $2700 USD. For that price, it better come with a friggin’ Buster Shot on the front.

-Not sure where I’ve been, but somehow I missed the fact that Gamestop managed to swing a deal to have a Secret of Mana remake for the PS4 be a Gamestop exclusive. Interesting to see if this becomes a thing, (i.e. Target gets exclusive games, Walmart gets exclusive games,..).

-Only 59 more days until God of War 4 is released. But who’s counting?

-For all of my Star Wars fans out there, you can preorder the largest Star Wars toy that Hasbro has ever made, Jabba’s Sail Barge, for a mere $499.99! This monstrosity is 4 feet long, a little over a foot wide, and a 1 ½ feet tall, and comes with either divorce papers or a letter from your child expressing their undying love and gratitude. There is a catch, Hasbro will only start production if they get 5,000 preorders by 4/3 (currently, as of this post, they have 1,259 orders). You can place your preorder at www.hasbrolab.com.

-Finally, I want to thank everyone who follows us on Twitter and/or Instagram!

The Death of Marvel vs Capcom

Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is dead. Let’s just get that out there in the open. I know, you know it, Capcom knows it. Capcom knows it so much that they omitted MVC from their Capcom Pro tournament. Think about that. The company that designed, marketed and released the game is saying that their own game is not good enough for their own tournament. Holy hell, people. This is a sad day for me as I have been a huge fan of the MVC series and to see it get the ol’ Street Fighter V treatment, aka releasing an unfinished game, and then to basically lose support from its studio, is a travesty to me. At least Street Fighter V has been updated and Capcom supports it. Do you know how many Twitch viewers MVC gets? A few hundred at a time. Really. A few hundred. Which essentially means that the general gaming community has lost interest in it. To pour another pile of crap onto this growing mountain of fertilizer, it won’t be included in EVO this year. For those of you not familiar with EVO, it’s essentially the World Series of fighting games. This is a death sentence. If the game is now not going to be in any noteworthy tournaments that’s a wrap folks. It appears that Dragonball FighterZ has taken its place as the premier 3v3 tag fighter on the market (rightfully so).

So with all that doom and gloom out of the way, I’m really trying to find a way to look at this from a positive point of view. Is this the wakeup call that Capcom needs? Are we as a collective group saying, “Stop releasing beta versions of your fighters or your product will sit on the shelves”? God, I hope so. Enough is enough. Capcom has always been guilty of performing the blatant cash grab (re: releasing the same game over and over again with a new mode, or with a couple of new fighters that you have to download), but to knowingly release an unfinished game and forcing the consumer to download massive update files to patch it, is unforgivable. They have done it twice in a row with Street Fighter V and MVC. By the way, Street Fighter V was rereleased as Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, which is the exact same game as the original version but comes with a download code for more characters. Yup. Cash. Grab. I love Street Fighter, I really do, and I was so disappointed when I bought SFV only to find that I needed to download a 9gb file just to play it. With that said, I love the MVC series even more, so it’s even more of a travesty that Capcom, well, Capcom’ed it, and released the game with a weak roster which has led to weaker sales. So what better way to remedy poor sales then by…rereleasing the game in a steelbook case and a download code for more characters. You know what? With some games this would be okay, and by some games, I mean any game that feels like a finished product. I know that in the past I have complained about DLC as being greedy but I know that’s the way the gaming world works today: companies have to try to get as much revenue off of a title as possible and if it’s by selling digital content then it’s easier to increase their margin and also cover the production costs of eventually rereleasing the title with everything included. In the case of MVC, it feels like the download code should have been given out for free in order to decrease the unhappiness of the community, instead of trying to sell another copy of the game with everything that was missing from the first version but in a metal friggin’ case. Capcom, clearly you’re able to release quality games, you *literally* just did with Monster Hunter World, why can’t you show the same love for your fighter fans?

I hope this isn’t the end of the MvC franchise but I have a hard time believing that Capcom will be in a hurry to invest money and resources into another title after they have essentially pulled support from the franchise. Who knows? Maybe after Avengers: Infinity War is released and sells a bazillion and a half tickets, Capcom will be inspired to ride the hype wave. Ah well, either way life goes on, so I’ll dry my eyes and then play some Dragonball FighterZ.


Also, MvC 2 is the best of the MvC series. I don’t know why people say 3 is. 52 characters! 52, people! *drops mic*

Deck List! Hearthstone Secret Aggro Hunter (Standard)

I discovered this little gem online and decided to give it a whirl. I went 6-1 with it only losing to a Warlock deck (shocking..). Regardless it’s very cool, and you can quickly overwhelm your opponent right out of the gate. As far as mulligan tips go, try to get a Secret Keeper in your opening hand along with some of the 2 drop Secrets in order to pump it. You can also look for an Alleycat and a Cloaked Huntress. The Alleycat puts instant pressure on your opponent and on T3 the Huntress comes out and your secrets are now free. It’s a very synergistic deck that can put up a fight against anything out there, besides Warlock apparently. I definitely recommend you try this one out and let us know what you think.

Masters 25 Dilemma

Introduction

It must be time for another release of Magic’s “Masters” set.  Chris and I have started our prerelease ritual of texting one another box prices and our intentions to maybe perhaps think about possibly buying one.  I started the conversation yesterday with the news that a local store is taking preorders at a decent price that they will honor until the week before release.  I did some research and saw, again, that the box only includes 24 packs.  That got me waffling a bit and perhaps thinking that my money was better spent elsewhere.  After all, I still have to buy my Rivals of Ixalan sealed product.

We went back and forth, initially agreeing that it was a silly idea for either of us to buy a box.  I suggested going in half and splitting one, though honestly neither of us was terribly receptive to that idea.  Conversation turned to my van “Check Engine” light, which is a big deal in my life right now.  I’m driving around with a rejected inspection sticker and looking over my shoulder like I was driving the getaway car in Baby Driver.

Wait, are we allowed to reference Kevin Spacey projects any more?

Then, as I was in my class, Chris texts me with a link to a place selling them for an even better price, but he was under the impression that it was only in bulk and that you’d have to buy a case of them.  While that was true for the price he quoted, there was a slightly higher price for non bulk orders.  He and I both agreed that we wouldn’t find a better price than that and stamped “SOLD” across the post in big, red letters.  Even so, I’m still having second thoughts.  Look, I get that this is one of most first world of all first world problems.  But, I imagine that some of you out there might be having the same issue and it always helps to talk things out.  Hopefully, by the end, I’ll arrive at some sort of conclusion.

The Good

Guess who’s back? Back again?

Jace, the Mind Sculptor – This is the best argument that can be made for the set, especially now that Wizards has decided to let loose the hounds of hell and give Jace another shot of showing just how repressive he can be in Modern.  Similar to Black Lotus, I have been obsessed with this card ever since learning of its existence.  I mean, come on.  It’s blue and it’s Jace.

Early on in my entry back into the game, its name was only whispered in darkened corners and never openly discussed.  As I became more familiar with the game and more people argued for the unbanning, I started to wonder why (more than it’s blue and it’s Jace) the card appealed to me so much.  Other than the previously mentioned reasons, it’s also 3 of the best blue cards ever printed on one card for only 4 mana.  That’s true, but it doesn’t quite capture the essence of why.

Then, a streamer responded to someone in his chat who mentioned the potential that maybe the card could be unbanned from Modern.  I told you the conversation has been gaining momentum.  He said that he agreed with the banning, which got people going before he even had a chance to explain.  That’s what reminded we that we were in Twitch chat and not Socrates discussion circle.  On the internet, nobody can hear you, well anything, because they are too busy shouting over you.

His point was that the card was too good.  Of course it is.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t ban it.  But, it was too good in the way that other cards aren’t.  See, people lost to Jace, but they would have no idea that they lost to Jace.  They would blame this card or that card, all the while neglecting to realize that Jace set all of that into motion 10 turns ago.  A light went on in my head and all was made clear.  Jace is the ultimate blue card.  They’ve tried before and since to distill the essence of what it means to be blue, but this card nailed it.  Sneaky good, beats you before you realize it, and then strings you along for a good while after.  Just an amazing card design.

Drafting!

I’ve mostly only experienced drafting the Master sets from the outside.  I watched streams of the GPs for the Modern Masters set last year, astounded that people were giving the player crap for taking a foil ‘Goyf with his pick.  I have drafted a few of the sets, mostly Modern Masters 2015 in xMage since I didn’t know about the sets and especially not their draftability.  Since learning of them, the cost of the packs has kept me away.  Who wants to pay 30 dollars for cards and then give half of them away?

During one of our conversations when I realized that both Chris and I might end up buying a box of the set, I said, “Plus I could put 6 packs aside for a future draft.”  Having had my interest again kindled by the draft that Chris and I did a couple of weeks ago, I’m more than willing to donate a few packs to get a chance to see what we can do with this set and these cards.  Since he is a Modern player and I am obsessed with Vintage and Legacy even though I’ve only ever played the formats on xMage, I wonder how that might affect our draft strategy.  Stay tuned

Unboxing Video!

After Chris sent me the link of the better price of the boxes, I texted him back, “Maybe this will finally inspire me to do what I’ve always meant to do and just post an unboxing video.”  He replied, “Yep, that would most likely get hits.”  I agreed, especially if I can get it done on release weekend.  As with many things, there are no promises on this front, but we have been good about updating articles and recording podcasts and uploading videos are part of Phase 2 and 3 of our eventual internet takeover.

The Bad

Not Many Spoilers

We are still relatively early in spoiler season for the set.  Other than Jace, we have Azusa, which is a relic of a Modern meta long past and Phyrexian Obliterator, which is fun to draft in cube, but not as much fun as, say, Massacre Wurm or Big Daddy Gris.  So, in other words, other than Jace, there is literally nothing else that has me excited about this set yet.  Jace is the only thing.  It keeps dancing in front of me like some ridiculous dream that will most likely never be realized and yet, I can’t say no.

Sure, there will be other spoilers and some of those cards might actually get me to say, “Wow!”  Honestly, though, none of them will be Jace.  He’s my man crush Monday.  He’s my tweet about this dude I love Tuesday.  He’s my Hump Day dream.  He’s my…okay, you get the point.  Am I just buying this 200 dollar boondoggle simply because of the (I don’t want to do math, so here comes a made up statistic) one out of a thousand chance that I am blessed with one of the boxes that contains Jace?  Maybe….

The Ugly

Drafting?

Because these sets are designed to be drafted, Wizards can’t make every card a bomb rare or mythic.  For every Jace, there are (another made up stat because it’s Friday) about 3 dozen Waxmane Bakus.  While they are cool when you are trying to put together a sweet spirit deck in your draft pool, they are miserable to continue to pull from packs that cost twice as much as any other Magic the Gathering pack.

The Verdict

As I said before, in the pantheon of first world problems, this is one of the first worldest.  Nevertheless, it is not one that I’ve gone through before.  Since these sets generally come at a time when I’m either on break or having just gotten off break, I’ve never actually had the money before to spend.  Now that I have the money to spend, I have to figure out if I’m really going to spend it.

If I was truly thinking with my head and going over the Pros and Cons list that I just made, I think that I’d come to the conclusion that is isn’t worth the extra money.  However, when it comes to games and gaming, I rarely think with my head.  Most of the time, I go with what my gut or heart tells me and that’s telling me to stop being such a weiner and just preorder the box.

There’s a tiny chance that I can pull a Jace or some other really cool card from the box, which will make for great video.  Sure, there’s also the chance that I might end up with a whole bunch of garbage, but that can happen with any box of cards and has never stopped me before, even when I was spending 200 on old boxes of Phyrexia and such.  Chris and I have been really into drafting lately and I want to see what this set would look like in one of our two man drafts. So, let’s listen to the old heart and stop being such a weiner.

Currently Playing…Battle Chasers: Nightwar (PS4)

I’m hoping that all my fellow comic nerds out there remember the late 90’s comic series, Battle Chasers. It was created by one of my favorite artists on this planet, Joe Madureira, who is known for mixing Anime designs with really detailed American-style shading techniques. His style blew my mind when he was drawing Uncanny X-men, but once he started to work on Battle Chasers, he really started to hit his stride as a penciller. He was and still is one of the major influences of my pencil work, which makes this review a little hard to do. But my job is to give unbiased opinions for you guys, and I would be doing a crappy job if I told you that this game is amazing.

Battle Chasers starts out promising. The visuals are really sharp and you can tell that a ton of time was put into character design, the environments as well as the cut scenes. I was a little annoyed that the beginning of the game was a longer cut scene that lasts several minutes before you can actually play. Once you can actually play the game is pretty decent to begin with. It’s an old school JRPG with some unique elements that work well. There are two different kind of maps in this game: one that is an overworld view with different map points you move between and enemy encounters that are clearly identified, and the others are Diablo-esque dungeons. I really liked the dungeons and love the idea of mixing dungeon exploration with a turn-based JRPG. Each character in your party has different abilities that help you get through the dungeon. Before you enter a dungeon you have the choice of difficulty level, the harder the difficulty the better the loot you can pick up. The majority of Nightwar is actually spent in the randomly generated dungeons. But there is also plenty of side quests, crafting, and exploring to do in this game, I still haven’t become disinterested in the game because there is always something to do.

Ok, so what else did I like about this game? Other than the visuals and the dungeons that I mentioned above, the combat feels old school, which I love, yet also had a fresh feeling with the Overdrive mechanic. Usually you pay mana to use spells and special abilities, but by doing attacks you build up your Overdrive meter, which when fully charged, lets you use abilities for free, increases damage, etc. It adds an additional element of strategy to each fight, do you use the Overdrive early and try to build it up again? Or do you hold off until you have a boss on the ropes? I also like that random enemy encounters are not a thing in this game. It’s one of my pet peeves about other RPGs. Nothing worse than trying to walk somewhere and getting constantly bombarded by random enemies.

Okay, so now onto the bad stuff. The game crashed a few times on me. After some interwebz research, I wasn’t the only one that this happened to. I was very, very thankful that it autosaves so much so I didn’t really lose much. Still, this is something that is unforgivable in a finished product. I also found the inventory screen to be clunky and confusing, as well as having tiny font (I played this on my 60″), and the font was still on the smaller side. If it wasn’t for these issues, one being major, this game is actually decent as far as a JRPG goes. So back to the end of the first paragraph, I can’t say this game is amazing, don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly one of the better JRPGs that has been released in the past couple of years, but the bug and the menu design hold it back from being great. Is it worth the $25 price tag? Absolutely. Is it perfect? No, but still fun.

Buy it: If you’re an old school JRPG fan, like Diablo and used to be a fan of the Battle Chasers comic. It’s really neat seeing the characters come to life so to speak.

Try it: If you like JRPGs, this game is worth giving giving a shot. Is it Final Fantasy 3? No, but you might want to consider adding it to your collection anyways.

Walk by it: If you’re looking for a perfectly polished game. Or you have kids. Seriously, don’t buy this for your kids. Red Monika’s outfit is a bit much, and hers is not the only one, there is a witch in the game that leaves very little to the imagination.

Deck List! MTG Budget Bogles (Modern)

Hey gang! Today I wanted to share my take on a MTG Modern format mainstay, Bogles. Since I’m a cheap gamer, this is a budget-conscious version that cuts several of the more expensive pieces of a typical Bogles deck. Gone are the fetchlands and Horizon Canopy ($60 a piece?!), and they have been replaced with cheaper, but still reliable, mana options. I’ve also added in a couple copies of Sram, Senior Edificer which I’ve found to be a really useful piece that not many people run in other Bogles decks. Since this deck is essentially all aura spells, his ability to draw a card every time you play an Aura will help you find the cards you are looking for. So what do you do with those Auras? Well you play them on your hexproof creatures early and pump them up, since your opponent can’t target them individually it’s hard to deal with them. I’m aware that the lands I’ve added in to replace the fetches are painlands as well as City of Brass and Mana Confluence which will drain your life after awhile. Fortunately, with Daybreak Coronet, its really easy to regain that life. I’ve had really great results with this budget version and highly recommend that you give it a shot.

Enchantment (22)
4x Ethereal Armor
4x Hyena Umbra
4x Rancor
4x Daybreak Coronet
2x Spider Umbra
3x Spirit Mantle
1x Unflinching Courage

Land (22)
5x Forest
3x Temple Garden
2x City of Brass
2x Plains
4x Sunpetal Grove
2x Fortified Village
4x Brushland

Creature (14)
4x Gladecover Scout
2x Sram, Senior Edificer
4x Silhana Ledgewalker
4x Slippery Bogle

Super Bowl Post Mortem

Introduction

I spent the better part of two weeks convincing people (and maybe even myself) that I wasn’t going to watch the Super Bowl this year.  I haven’t watched an entire Super Bowl (not even when the Steelers were in it) in over a decade, so why start this year.  Then, I was actually invited to a Super Bowl party.  It wasn’t one of those, “maybe” invites either.  It was from the same friend that I’ve made a tradition of watching the CFP Championship with and might even try to make some time this year to watch some of the March Madness tournament.

We said yes.  I say “we” because our wives are friends, too, and Aiden expressed interest in watching the game this year.  We were going to make a family event of it.  Liam was a bit upset that we weren’t going to do our annual movie marathon, but everyone else seemed to be on board.  Then, the big day came, and some of our family wasn’t feeling well, so we didn’t want to spread germs.  Cue up “Night at the Museum” trilogy!

I did watch the Gamecast at the end of the first half and then the end of the game.  Because, let’s be fair.  The NFL (and college to some extent) has become a league where you don’t actually have to watch the whole game.  If something exciting is going to happen, it’s going to be in the last few minutes of either half.  Sure enough, that’s exactly how this game went down.  Well, in conversation with Chris, he said it was a good game, but I’m okay being in the dark except for highlights.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. I work nights at a school and it gets spooky as heck in the dark.

What Exactly Are We Watching?

NFL ratings have been down.  I’m sure you’ve heard that at least once during the season.  Everyone has a theory as to why.  People are disrespecting the flag and the anthem!  The product is too diluted by being on so many times during the week!  Parents are horrified to let their kids watch what ultimately is the slow suicide of 106 large men who crash into each other at full speed!

I think that what many people are not considering is that ratings everywhere are going down.  As more and more realize that everything is much better on demand and often sports are much better consumed as highlights, the old model of television is becoming obsolete.  Sure cable companies are holding on for dear life, bolstered primarily by ESPN’s Disney money, but the end is extremely effing nigh as 28 Day Later told us.

I would, for a moment, like to return to the concussion issue.  The flag and anthem are non starters for me, so don’t even start.  If you want to have an intelligent discussion about it, fine.  As I said in a previous article, if you want to shout generalities and memes at me, I’m just going to conclude that you don’t have the intellectual capacity to hold a conversation and I’m going to walk away.  However, after listening to Hang Up and Listen this week, I do think there might be something to the concussion theory.

Football good. Concussion bad.

They were talking about how Patriots super tight end (yikes, those words in that order sound really weird) Rob Gronkowski, referred semi-affectionately by me as “Gronkenstein”, sounded almost contemplative during his post game interview.  I was intrigued by this because (a) I just assumed that Gronk would Gronk as long as his body allowed him to Gronk and (b) he’s not exactly the most contemplative individual.  It was a bit of a shock to hear that Gronk maybe didn’t want to Gronk as hard and maybe not at all anymore.

Sure, there have been other players who have decided that the game wasn’t for them and have retired early.  Especially as more evidence is coming out that the NFL kept research from the public and, more importantly, the players, some guy are deciding that going on playing a game that might leave them so brain damaged as to eventually hurt somebody else or themselves might not be the best idea.  Gronkenstein is the perfect specimen for playing football.  It’s like he was selected by a casting director for a football movie.  Hearing that even he was considering his own mortality has me a bit shook.

“I’m Rooting for the Meteor”

In spite of my insistence that I wasn’t watching the game (at this point because I was convinced more than ever that it would just be another typical Patriots victory), I kept getting drawn into conversations about the game.  I finally just responded to one conversation with Craig (the guy who I was supposed to be ignoring the game at his Super Bowl party), “I’m rooting for the meteor.”  I also said to Chris after the game, “Know that this is one of the few ways that the Patriots would lose the Super Bowl and I wouldn’t be dancing on their graves.”  For a Steelers fan, this game was a lose-lose proposition.

Did the meteor win?

If I Had Any Money, I’d Probably Develop a Gambling Problem

During one of my conversations with Craig, he mentioned that he bought one of those squares for the game this year.  That got me thinking, so I went and I checked out some betting sites to see what odds you could have gotten on various scenarios.  The Eagles won, which was unexpected, and Nick Foles won MVP, which was very unlikely.  I figured that if you were going to bet one then you’d probably have taken the other, so I figured out parlay odds for those things happening.  It was over 10 to 1.  I also figured that if you hedged with Tom Brady as MVP, you’d only have lost only 10 dollars on that hedge.  I ended several conversations with the conclusion that I’d have to put some money away so that I could throw it at Vegas next year.

Sorry, Kids, you can’t go to college. Daddy really liked Jimmy G-sus and the 49ers to win Super Bowl LIII.

Wither Defense in the NFL?

Chris insists that this was an exciting game.  I have heard that assessment from others as well.  I was riveted by the last 5 minutes or so as I watched the GameCast on NFL.com.  I asked him if the defenses were as bad as they seemed or if it was just an illusion of the high scoring game.  He replied, “Oh, no.  It wasn’t an illusion. The defenses were that bad.”  So, I checked out the highlights and all I can say is, “Wow.”  It wasn’t a surprise that the Patriots defense was terrible, they’ve been suspect all year.  The Eagles, on the other hand, were supposed to live on defense this year.  This is not my father’s NFL.

Some people complain about college football and the fact that many teams don’t bother with defense much other than maybe Alabama.  On the other hand, I enjoy the college game and the quick strike offenses that rule the day there.  It seems as if some of the more progressive coaches in the NFL (maybe spearheaded by Chip Kelly’s somewhat failed experiment) have noticed that if they want to win, they might have to go the college route.  Then again, perhaps this game is an aberration and we’ll be back to ugly 3 and out football next season.

Perhaps it won’t be as bad as this, but NFL coaches too often coach not to lose instead of coaching to win.

“Inch by Inch”

Perhaps influenced by the Madden video game series and their hero worship of players, I didn’t give much thought to coaching in the NFL.  Sure, people make the argument that a good coach makes a difference, but really, how much of a difference?  These are grown men who have fought tooth and nail all of their lives to rise to the epitome of their profession.  And, they need a guy to motivate them to do well at that profession?  It’s an absurd proposition.

Well, I’m here to say that I was wrong about all of that.  One of the main reasons that Philadelphia made it to the Super Bowl is that they have a good coach who is willing to do what it takes to win the game.  Most of the time, when faced with the Patriots “unbeatable aura”, coaches and teams shrink.  Not so with the Eagles in this game.  They stood toe to toe with the Pats and barely blinked.

There ain’t gonna be no rematch.

I’m Impressed By Philadelphia’s Marbles

Speaking of coaching, not only did Philly not blink, but they took it right to the Patriots.  They went for it on fourth down more than once.  One time, they went for it on 4th and goal from the Patriots 1 and showed them how a trick play throw to your quarterback is supposed to work.  I was impressed and jealous all at once.  Both Mike Tomlin and Bill Cowher have withered in the face of the great Belichick and Brady in the playoffs.  I want a coach that will throw the hammer down on the accelerator and never let up.

Granted, they played a little too safe at the end of the game and I was convinced that it would come back to bite them eventually.  They gave Brady way too many chances.  If we’ve learned one thing it is that you do not give Tom Brady any chance at the end of the game.  I guess I can understand them becoming a bit more conservative at the end of the game because you don’t want to happen to you what happened to Brady.  I didn’t like it, though.

Tanaka approves of those huge marbles, Philadelphia.

That Old Patriots Magic

Right up until the end of the game, I was convinced that the Patriots will win.  Heck, even about a week later, I’m convinced that the NFL will somehow review the tape of the failed Hail Mary and determine that the pass was actually complete and then the Patriots used some obscure rule to complete a three point conversion so that they actually won the game.  The Patriots winning close Super Bowls, sometimes in unexpected fashion has become a part of the NFL mythos.  Years later, we are going to tell our grandkids about 28-3 and the Tuck Rule just the same as our parents and grandparents told us about the Heidi game and the Immaculate Reception.

Nearly everyone I have spoken to agrees with me.  They are astounded that the Patriots did not win the game.  Not only did they not win the game, but they were scrambling at the end in much the same way that other teams do against them.  On the first potential game winning drive, Brady was stripped of the ball while being sacked.  Then, when Philly went a bit conservative as I mentioned above, he still had a chance to potentially tie it with the Hail Mary that harmlessly fell to the ground.  In any other normal Super Bowl, the first drive would have ended in a touchdown and then the following drive, the Patriots would have stripped Foles of the ball and won the game.  That didn’t happen this time.  Is that old Patriots magic dead at last?  Did it just take an evil of equal magnitude to end their reign?  Only time will tell.

Either way, ding dong mofos…

The Last Word

It all hit me yesterday afternoon as I listened to the final Simmons and Sal podcast of the NFL season.  It’s all over.  I’m not as big a fan of football as I once was, but I’ve grown fond of my little rituals during the season.  I paid attention to and cared a little bit about the Super Bowl for the first time in years.  I don’t know how long this will last or if it will grow into a new fandom in my later years, but it is possible.

At the very least, writing for the web page will keep me interested.  A couple of years ago, I did a preview with plans of doing picks every week and keeping track like the talking heads do.  This was a weird season, though, as evidenced by my 5-6 record in the playoffs and the Patriots losing the Super Bowl in a way that they normally win them, so who knows.  If it goes back to being the No Fun League again next year, I could quickly lose interest.

Though, evidence is starting to mount that we collided with an alternate timeline like in The Cloverfield Paradox and things will only get weirder.

Comic Haul! #3

This haul from the middle of December strays from my usual ordering habits as I usually don’t order runs of one title. Last summer Shawn had mentioned that the Aquaman series was pretty entertaining. Being the comic nut that I am I made a mental note to give it a shot once my pull list thinned out a bit. Once Secret Empire ended, I had the room but then those godamn Marvel Lenticular covers came out and I was suckered. Needless to say Aquaman was an afterthought until a coworker mentioned how he really liked the series. About a month ago I finally ordered the first seven issues since they were all on sale.

Note: I’m slightly tweaking the way I’m writing these posts to include the official solicitation for each comic followed by my thoughts about it. The reason being that I’m self critical and don’t believe that my previous overviews of the plot were giving you guys enough information.

Aquaman vol.6 #1 (DC Comics, 1st printing, Rebirth)

THE DROWNING’ Chapter one Black Manta returns, and as Aquaman attempts to broker lasting peace between Atlantis and the surface world, his greatest foe engineers a plan to destroy everything and everyone the undersea hero loves.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting too much to begin with as I’ve never been a big Aquaman fan, so my expectations were set low. Fortunately, this issue was fantastic. The Black Manta terrorism angle added a serious overtone to this otherwise fun issue. The art of Brad Walker really impressed me and the story was a solid start to the series. I’m hooked. Get it? Because it’s Aquaman…fish?..hooked? Eh, I’m not proud of that one either. 8/10

Aquaman vol.6 #2 (DC Comics, 1st printing)

THE DROWNING,’ Chapter Two: In issue #2, unity between land and sea is Arthur Curry’s greatest dream. But Black Manta has a dream too: to destroy everything Aquaman stands for, starting with the sea king’s Atlantean embassy and everyone in it.

Again, another solid issue. The Drowning storyline is really good so far. *****SPOILER ALERT***** After the Black Mantis blows up the Atlantean Embassy (issue #1), Aquaman finds himself at odds with the United States military. 8/10

Aquaman vol.6 #3 (DC Comics, 1st printing)

THE DROWNING,’ Chapter Three: In issue #3, Aquaman’s mission of peace is dealt a devastating blow when Atlantean terrorists attack the surface world in retribution for Black Manta’s deadly assault on their embassy.

****SPOILER ALERT**** The “twist” in this book was very predictable..clearly it wasn’t “Atlantean terrorists” that took out a navy ship. I mean, we just got through 2 issues where the Black Manta made it perfectly clear that he wanted to destroy Aquaman by any means necessary and we all know that he isn’t the only one who shares that sentiment. What better way to take Aquaman down? Frame the guy and let him get locked up or killed. 7/10

Aquaman vol.6 #4 (DC Comics, 1st printing)

The Drowning’ part four. Aquaman is arrested for a war crime he didn’t commit: ordering an Atlantean terrorist attack on the surface, killing hundreds! The young king is willing to sit behind bars if it means peace between two worlds, but one ally is determined to break Aquaman out, no matter the cost: his girlfriend Mera!

I was really loving this Aquaman series until I hit this book. Pet peeve: switching artists in the middle of a storyline. The art fell flat in this issue, good thing the story is definitely pulling the weight. 7/10

Aquaman vol.6 #5 (DC Comics, 1st printing)

The Drowning’ part five. Unjustly branded a murderer and a fugitive, Aquaman’s forced to defend himself against the might of America’s military. Meanwhile, Black Manta and the deadly underwater crime cabal known as N.E.M.O. advance their plan for revenge on Aquaman.

This one is basically one long action scene with Aquaman and Mera fighting the military to get back to the water. Also Black Mantis reminds us why he is not one you want to screw with after coming across fairly weak at the end of #2. No real surprises in the issue besides Black Mantis meeting the head of N.E.M.O. 7/10

Aquaman vol.6 #6 (DC Comics, 1st printing)

THE DROWNING’ conclusion! As this first epic concludes, Aquaman and Mera are on the run for a crime they didn’t commit. They’ve fought through every kind of firepower the U.S. military has thrown. Now all that’s left between them and Atlantis is the Man of Steel.

This was a crazy issue! Who would win in a fight? Supes or Fishguy? It’s not as one-sided as you might think as Aquaman can hold his own. Right when he throws the first punch my jaw dropped and it stayed that way until the end. It didn’t feel like the usual superhero kind of fight though, more of a fight you would have with your brother in the backyard. It was really, really interesting to see how Aquaman views himself within the Justice League as his frustration bubbles to the surface (I swear I didn’t mean that pun). The ending was decent but didn’t feel like the true ending of the story, more of a direct bridge to the next arc. 9.5/10

Aquaman vol.6 #7 (DC Comics, 1st printing)

‘Who framed Aquaman?’ The investigation into the Atlantean attack on American forces kicks off a mystery as the criminal collective N.E.M.O. unleashes a new and terrible weapon that threatens the existence of Atlantis itself.

This is the beginning of the next arc, where Mantis and N.E.M.O wake up a giant unstoppable creature to tear through Atlantis. Right when the creature wakes up it has a “Doomsday” feel to it as it smashes the Atlantean army flat. Entertaining issue and spoke to the B-monster movie guy in me. 8/10.

Ok, that’s it for the Aquaman portion of my order, I did grab a couple of other comics:

Hawkman Found#1 (DC Comics, 1st printing, Metal tie-in, foil cover)

One of DC’S greatest heroes is missing! No one has seen or heard from Carter Hall-a.k.a. Hawkman-in years. Reincarnated repeatedly since the dawn of humanity, Hawkman has spent his many lives uncovering history’s most fantastic mysteries, and now he has become one himself! Take a journey into the one of the darkest corners of the DC Universe as a mysterious man tries to piece together what happened to Hawkman, and how it all connects to the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL!

I mentioned in one of my previous comic hauls that I felt “Metal” was kinda going off the rails and becoming convoluted. Thankfully, this book is more straightforward than the main Metal books. One of the main plot lines of Metal has been that Hawkman is incredibly important as he is the guardian of “The Forge” of the universe but he is awol. This one shot is focused on reintroducing Carter Hall as he fights to rediscover who he is in order to escape a psychic prison. It’s entertaining and worthwhile to check out but I didn’t feel like it added a ton to the overall story. It did make me think that there should be a Hawkman series though. 8/10

Avengers vol.6 #672 (Marvel Comics, Lenticular cover)

WORLDS COLLIDE Part 1 
Following the events of GENERATIONS comes the long-promised clash between the Avengers and the Champions! The countdown has started as the High Evolutionary, a twisted scientist determined to create a better world at all costs, sets the Earth on a collision course with destruction! The Avengers and the Champions are ready to meet this threat – but will their first cataclysmic clash deter them from changing the world?

Wow! Just look at the synopsis! Looks entertaining doesn’t it? Yeah, I liked the cover. Haven’t read this one yet. N/A

That’s it for this haul, as always thanks for reading!