Tag Archives: Gaming with Kids

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Origins to Eldrich Moon

Note: This is part 3 of a 5 part series.

Part 1 | Part 2

Introduction

This is the time in Magic the Gathering history when the game was supposed to change forever. They made an announcement that there would be no more core sets. Admittedly, I don’t always have my finger on the pulse of various communities, but I never heard a huge outcry during the announcement. Granted, as a collector, I mourned the loss of those sets, but I’m not sure that many others did.

Aside from that, they reduced the number of sets for each block from 3 sets to 2. In response to this announcement, I did hear quite a bit of murmuring from the crowd. Perhaps it was a bridge too far so soon after the abolition of core sets. As we’ve discussed several times, some portions of the nerd community have become resistant to change. Furthermore, they are quite vocal about it.

Actual quotes from Star Wars fans after every new movie.

Magic the Gathering Origins and Competitive Play

In the previous two articles, I’ve included the core set with the block. I change that here for two reasons. First, with the core sets being discontinued, WotC assured us that there wouldn’t necessarily be “blocks” of sets anymore, even though there were for the next six cycles. Second, since Origins was supposed to be the “last” core set, they promised something innovative for the set.

As with most of WotC’s promises, this wasn’t entirely true. While there were some new things in the set that I will talk about briefly, at it’s heart, Origins was a core set. I think in my article about it, I called Origins the “corest of core sets”. I don’t blame them. Core sets existed for a reason. If you’re going to have core sets, then it should fulfill that purpose. Just don’t promise that you’re going out with a bang and then offer a slightly exaggerated whimper.

Okay, enough of my own “Grumpy Cat” impression. As I said, there are things that I enjoyed about the set. Before I get to those, I will just write a quick note about competitive. I’m not a competitive player by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t aspire to be one either. I do enjoy watching Magic, though, and this set was very kind to competitive players.

Plus, as an added bonus, it gave us the earworm, “I ain’t no Hangerback girl”. Just me? I can live with that.

My Thoughts on MtG Origins

Finally, we get to my positives from the set. Not to give too much away, but they’re what you have come to expect from a filthy casual such as myself. I might be mistaken here, but it’s the first time that I noticed that WotC made the story front and center in the game. I know that there has always been lore. It’s one of the things that we love about Magic. But, this is the first time that I saw them pushing that story on their web page and through the cards. That story focused around five main Planeswalkers and their journey through Magic history.

Speaking of those Planeswalkers, they lived up to the promise of “something different”. None of them start off as Planeswalkers. Instead, they are cast as younger versions of themselves. Then, through a mechanic associated with their color identity, they “gain their spark” and flip to become a Planeswalker. There has been at least one other flip Planewalker since, but this was like nothing that I have ever seen in the game before this set. I don’t know if they have plans to do so, but I would love to see more cards like this in the future.

Of course, I have to stick to my roots and use our friend Jace as the example.

Battle for Zendikar/Oath of the Gatewatch

I have to admit that I was surprised when they announced this group of sets. While the first Zendikar block might have been popular at the time, the only thing that I ever heard from players was how much they hated the Annihilator mechanic. Wizards of the Coast even publicly admitted that Annihilator might have been a mistake. I think I wrote in my previous article that we haven’t been back to Mirrodin, mostly likely because of infect. But, now, we’re back in Zendikar with an even less interactive mechanic? Okay. Let’s do this.

Yes, the Eldrazi are back. No, they don’t have Annihilator. Most of them don’t have Annihilator. Okay, none of them have Annihilator, but Ulamog is hungry and he wants to eat your deck. In keeping with the colorless theme, this set has colorless colored cards. Yeah, I know. For a game that prides itself on its adherence to logic, that might be a tough circle to square. Hear me out on this one, though. I mentioned earlier that WotC was choosing to incorporate lore more into the game. The Eldrazi are colorless creatures that consume all in their path. Zendikar is a rich source of resources. It makes sense that as the Eldrazi consume Zendikar’s resources, there would be those that were in the process of being converted.

This card has two colors, but is still colorless! Madness!

Maybe I thought too much thought into that. I’m sure that I put too much thought into it. Okay, I’m positive that I thought about that way too much. But, it was a fun train of thought for me and who knows? Maybe I’m on to something.

Back to the sets themselves. You can’t just have colorless spaghetti monsters (Actually, she’s not even here. More on her in the next section. Spoiler Alert.) destroying all in their paths. Well, you could, but that’s not much of a narrative. In addition to the old mechanic of landfall to symbolize the land itself fighting back, there’s also a mechanic called converge that pumps the ability of cards based on the different types of mana used to cast them. Multicolored v. colorless. Great flavor win!

Shadows Over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon

If it was a surprise that we returned to Zendikar, it was a relief to go back to Innistrad. I said several times in my previous article that Innistrad was right in my wheelhouse. If you haven’t read that article, I will summarize here. Having grown up with fantasy and fantasy horror, Innistrad reminded me of times playing the D&D campaign Ravenloft with friends as a teenager. The addition of flip cards, the lore win of graveyard interaction, and a strong story overall cemented Innistrad as one of my favorite blocks. I’m glad to be back.

Okay, but what are those shadows over Innistrad? Who knows? Who cares? It’s probably just witches or giant bats or something like that. It’s certainly not a giant spaghetti monster that has come to consume this plane that we all love. To be honest, I had no idea during the first set that there would be Eldrazi on Innistrad. I mean, I did find it odd that Emrakul was missing from Zendikar, but I wasn’t paying full attention to the story at the time. I was just happy to be back on Innistrad.

It appears that there may have been clues if I had been paying attention.

You got Eldrazi in my zombies! You got zombies in my Eldrazi! Two disgusting things that go great together? I admit that it was a complete surprise when the reveal of Eldritch moon showed that much of the madness on the plane was courtesy of Emrakul’s influence. I wasn’t sure how the crossover might work and felt skeptical that it would be any good. I’m happy to have been proven wrong. While not as strong as the other Innistrad sets, in my opinion, Eldritch Moon delivered enough fun to be a solid filler set if nothing else.

The Verdict

The “new era of Magic the Gathering” as ushered in by the end of core sets and the switch from 3 set blocks to a less rigid construct for sets got off to a mostly successful start. While Origins was, at its heart, just another core set, it did introduce some cool new things into the game. My favorite from the set was the flip Planeswalkers. I hold out hope that we will see more, but to this day they are unique to Origins. Kudos to WotC for keeping things unique.

I never got to play the original Zendikar. I wasn’t even able to collect it as boxes were pushing 300 dollars at the time that I was trying to put together sets. It was nice to be able to see some of what I missed without having to deal with the annoying Annihilator mechanic. I’m not as much of a fan of the Eldrazi as maybe Chris is, but I’ve developed a soft spot since these sets for the big lugs.

Emrakul, in particular, has a goofy triggered ability that I enjoy.

The revisit to Innistrad wasn’t as much fun as the first. Guess you really can’t go home again. The Eldrazi only partly played a role in making the Innistrad not as fun. I actually enjoyed the story and some of the weird creatures that came as a result. It was just too much of a good thing perhaps. That’s what I fear from a Return to Return to Ravnica. This will be the third time on the plane in just over a decade of time. What could they possibly have that will make it worth it? I suppose time will tell.

3 down, 2 to go. Next time, we visit the 3 newer planes introduced recently; Kaladesh, Amonkhet, and Ixalan. After that, it is Dominaria and Return to Ravnica to finish the series. I hope you all have been enjoying reading this as much as I’ve been writing it. See you in a couple of days.

Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time

Introduction

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my brief subscription to Board Game Bento.A� They had some a discount code for the holidays and I always wanted to try the service.A� Unable to pass up a deal that gave me a chance to do just that, I signed up.A� I already wrote an article about the first month’s box.A� Due to a mix up with my Paypal account, I got subscribed for a second box even though I meant to cancel after only one.

As Bob Ross is fond of saying, that was a happy little accident. I wasn’t sure that I would continue with the subscription beyond that first month.A� I’m still not sure if I will and the subscription is currently on hiatus until I determine if it will be worth it.A� I think that I might have mentioned that the dollar value more or less checks out, but maybe not all of the games are ones that our family will play.A� In addition, Christine made the point that we already have a ton of games and not much room for storage right now.

As a result, the current answer is leaning not very heavily in the “no” column.A� Even if only one of the games is playable by the family (and so far, we have found at least one from the first two boxes that we’ve received.A� You may have deduced, therefore, that this article is about the game that we played from that second box.A� Brilliant deduction, Sherlock!

Yes, you are also correct in assuming that I only said that so that I could post a picture of my man crush.

The theme of the second box was time.A� There were two card games that looked interesting.A� One can even be played solitaire.A� However, we haven’t tried either of the card games yet.A� Christine noticed the board game, Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, said that it looked interesting, and she, Aiden, Quinn, and I played through the game.

The Good

The game is a cooperative game, which is great for our family.A� None of us are really that competitive except for Aiden.A� I mean, we all have our competitive streaks as all people do, but we temper it with an overall attitude of just have fun with it.A� While it may not be effective for everyone, it has fostered a safe environment in which to play games.A� I’ve also been able to appeal to Chris’s charitable side and get him to adopt more friendly rules during our Magic games.A� I also think that he gets a lot of his competitive juices out during his games against Darren, so he’s often just looking for kitchen table fun when we sit down together.

My mother got us a game for Christmas a few years ago that was a cooperative game that we played a few times.A� It was a pretty good game, but I think that this game captures the spirit of games better than that one ever did.A� You work together as a team in an attempt to recover stolen artifacts from the mansion of Professor Evil.A� There are several obstacles in your way; traps, time and the professor himself.

But, if you are successful, you win one million dollars.

The Bad

This seems like a common theme for board games that we’ve played recently and here we go again.A� When Quinn and I played Flag Dash, the set up for the game took longer than our play through and the payoff was not worth the time invested.A� This game suffers from a similar issue.A� Christine took about 15-20 minutes to simply set up the game.A� I thought that was a bad sign and that we’d be in for another disappointing experience.

Luckily, unlike Flag Dash, once the game was set up, it was much more intuitive to play the game.A� We all picked up on the turn order very quickly, used strategy and teamwork when necessary to win the game.A� It looked a bit grim and that we might lose.A� Instead of giving up, though, we formulated a plan that worked and got us the victory just before the Professor escaped with his stolen goods!

The Ugly

I said earlier that I was slightly leaning “no” with regards to signing up for a longer subscription for Board Game Bento.A� I haven’t changed my mind completely yet, but there currently is a bit of an ugly internal battle going on inside of me.A� Logically, I know that I probably shouldn’t.A� Inside my gamer’s heart, though, I’m pretty positive that I’m going to make the illogical decision.

Nonsense is so much more fun.

I mean, really, we’ve gotten two boxes and have gotten at least two playable games from them.A� That’s all I’m looking for right now.A� As the boys get older and get involved in more things, as I work two jobs that keeps me out of the house for 12-16 hours a day, and as we all enter that time in our lives when we all are drifting apart for a few years, the time that we do get together is precious and I’m always thinking of ways to increase that time and make it more memorable.A� So, perhaps it isn’t such utter nonsense after all.

The Verdict

This was a fun game.A� Initially, we sold it to the boys and ourselves as a game similar to Clue.A� Since they all enjoy playing that game so much, it wasn’t hard to convince them to give this one a try.A� It wasn’t as much like Clue as we thought, but it was still a fun game.A� I especially liked both the cooperative nature of the game and that the game had a win condition.A� That was missing from the last cooperative game that we played.A� Though, to be fair, that game was mostly just for little kids to teach them about good sportsmanship and sharing, so probably not the best comparison.A� We haven’t played it again since that first time, but it should become a regular in our rotation for family game nights.

As far as the overall subscription, I’m no longer certain that I won’t sign up.A� I’m not even leaning in any significant way towards “No”.A� For the reasons discussed above, I might just give it another few months to disappoint me.A� Then again, Aiden is a fan of the Tinker Crates,A� those are much cheaper, and we can work together on those, too.A� Plus, I just bought a whole bunch of ebooks about designing video games, building robotic Lego structures, and making drones.A� I have a feeling we’ll be quite busy for the foreseeable future.

Yep…

Board Game Bento Impressions

Introduction

In December, I saw that Board Game Bento was having a sale.A� In case you don’t know, Board Game Bento is one of those subscriptions services that sends tabletop games every month.A� I’ve tried a few of the services.A� Some (the original Minechest and Tinker Crate) have been worth it, while others (Loot Crate and the Loot Crate Minechest) have not endured for longer than the initial shipments.A� Mostly, unless you like those Pop! vinyl figures, nothing from Loot Crate is worth it in my opinion.

I have seen the various “Bento” subscriptions come across my social media feeds.A� They have one for comics and another for anime.A� I have considered the comics one just because I like comics, but I’ve had to stop buying them again.A� A box of comics/TPB would be welcome.A� I never bit on it, though.

Unless, maybe, it’s this comic book. I Googled “comic book sad” and got this. I, I’m not even going to argue.

We play a lot of games as a family.A� You may remember my article about Ticket to Ride.A� The boys also like Clue, Stratego, Othello, and Scrabble.A� I want to teach them Backgammon and chess.A� Always looking at things through the lens of how it will affect us as a family, that was enough to get me to consider the board game subscription.A� When they ran the sale, there was little reason not to give it a try.

The first box that I got came with three games.A� The second box just came (even though I didn’t necessarily want it, so more on that later) and it also had three games.A� Two of them were board games and the third was a card game.A� The first game that we played was a board game called Flag Dash.A� The other game we played was the card game, which was called Water Balloon Washout.A� The third game, that we didn’t not play yet is called Cottage Garden.A� I suppose the theme of the box must have been spring or something.

Oh, Spring, how I’ve missed you. Please come back soon.

(Note:A� I am going to go out of order for this particular article and do “The Bad” first.A� Always lead with the bad.A� Aside from that, “The Good” references “The Bad”, so it just makes sense.)

The Bad

As I mentioned, we played Flag Dash first.A� Quinn wanted to play both that and the Water Balloon game, we had time on Sunday evening, and everyone else was busy.A� So, I grabbed the game and asked him to play.A� We sat down, I pulled out the instructions, and started to read.A� And I read, and I cross referenced, and I read some more.A� Quinn was getting antsy, so I started to set up the board to get him interested.A� That required me to read even more.

This is a bad sign.A� Sure the game recommended 8+ as the age range.A� But, any game that requires you to spend more than 5 minutes setting it up is not a game meant for children of any age.A� They simply don’t care about your stupid rules set and interactions.A� They just want to put their pawns on the board and roll the dice.

That’s the other thing.A� There aren’t dice in this game.A� It’s movement cards coupled with something known as a priority card.A� Basically, you establish turn order according to the priority cards and then move based on the move card.A� Call me old fashioned, but that is simply overly complicated.A� Quinn just kept wanting to move, but I had to keep reminding him that we had to establish turn order first.A� He got frustrated and it almost got to the point where I just put the game away to prevent a Sunday evening meltdown.

I’m not against a priority system.A� There’s one present in D&D and we spent 4 hours playing that the other day.A� It’s just that for a game that is supposed to mimic capture the flag, you’d think that they wouldn’t want to interrupt the flow of the game so much.A� I mean, capture the flag is about running around like crazy people and trying to grab a flag.

In that regard, it is a poor simulation of the game that it supposedly simulates.A� In other regards, there are just too many damn rules.A� I have no idea if we even played the game correctly because I just started ignoring the stupid rules and playing more simply.A� The game moved more smoothly and we finished quickly.A� Thank goodness because I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on a game that could ruin the last free hours of my weekend.

Granted the game is made for 4 players and we played two with one of them being below the age limit.A� As a result, we had to both act for two players and that might have bogged the game down.A� I don’t know.A� All I know is that this game was not an enjoyable experience and there’s no way I would pay the $17.50 that I saw quoted when I went searching for the game picture earlier.

The Good

We played the Water Balloon Washout game second.A� Okay, now this is more like it.A� I wish that we would have played it first.A� It was, by far, the better of the two games.A� I’ve often read that the best games are ones that don’t have a large rules book.A� While there might be exceptions, that was certainly the case with these games.A� Unlike the complicated rules of Flag Dash, the rules of this game were so simple as to be printed on a pamphlet that fit inside of the card box.A� We were up and playing in no time at all.

Quinn enjoyed this game far more than the other one.A� He didn’t get a chance to get bored during set up because set up took no time at all.A� He was able to grasp all of the rules immediately because there weren’t that many.A� He was able to put together a strategy that allowed him to compete in the game and eventually beat me.A� It was just a much more well designed game for kids.

This game was also suggested for 8+ and 2-4 players.A� It scaled much better to only 2.A� Also, I can’t see why it would be 8+ other than the reading required.A� Apparently our 6 year old reads at an 8 year old level.A� I knew that, but I just wanted to write it to brag that my kid is a super genius.

The Ugly

You’d think that with three games and three sections that the last game would go here.A� It would line up neat and tidy, but we didn’t get a chance to play the last game.A� It is a board game, though, so hopefully it doesn’t have the rules book similar to Flag Dash.A� It’s something about building gardens, though, so I doubt that there can be that many rules to placing garden tiles on a board.

No, the ugly of this service is the same as most of these other services.A� They set you up for autorenewal and you have to go in to the page to actively cancel it and avoid being charged for a second subscription.A� I only signed up for a month and I thought that I had canceled.A� Then, the charge appeared in my account again.

What the hell?A� I wondered.A� In case you are wondering, no, they aren’t the type of company to charge you without your consent.A� I had signed up via PayPal and while I had changed my subscription status on the Bento website, I never did so through PayPal, so I got hit with a second charge and a second box.A� It’s my fault and I could look at it as a positive because now I have a second box to weigh and decide if I want to continue with the service.

The Verdict

One good, one bad, one unplayed.A� One additional box with three more games to try.A� Overall, I’m happy with the service, even if it is a bit on the expensive side when it comes to these subscription boxes.A� It is 50 dollars plus 12 dollars shipping and handling.A� But, you are getting 3 games.A� The MSRP of the 3 games in the “Spring” box was 17.50 for Flag Dash, 39.99 for Cottage Garden, and the Water Balloon Washout isn’t commercially available right now.A� So, just taking the two games into consideration, you are getting almost your money’s worth from the box.

It also introduces new games into a house that sometimes can’t decide what games to play because we’ve played them all multiple times.A� That’s a service that can’t be given a price.A� While I haven’t kept the subscription to every service (I just don’t like what Loot Crate has to offer monthly), I do keep the ones that I enjoy and that seems worth it.A� I can’t say yet whether this one seems worth it, but we did get great enjoyment from one of the games and I’ll be able to make a more informed decision after trying the latest box.

On Trains and Childhood

Introduction

I’ve talked on my One Guy Outdoors page recently about how much tradition means to me and our family.A� We aren’t bound by traditions, necessarily.A� It’s just that when we find something that we enjoy doing, we tend to put it into a routine that becomes tradition from year to year.A� One of those traditions is the Hobby Railroad Show at the Big E.A� I don’t remember how we discovered it.A� It was definitely during Liam’s Thomas phase.A� Looking for something to do with a train obsessed preschooler during the long and gray months of December and January, we stumbled on the train show.A� It didn’t hurt that it was near my birthday and I don’t often ask for anything for my birthday.

Those first years we went as a family.A� It was even as recently as maybe 3 or 4 years ago that all five of us took the trip.A� Last year or the year before, it was just the boys and I.A� This year, the only one that was able to make the trip with me was Aiden.A� Christine made plans for Quinn to do a “Cookies and Canvas” event put on by their school’s PTO.A� Originally, Aiden was supposed to join him, but he backed out.A� She suggested that he come along with me to the train show since I was a bit upset that it looked like we might not make it this year.A� To my surprise, he said that he’d rather do that.

Journal

I started to hedge a bit this morning, saying things like that I didn’t want to pay $20 for two people to go since we used to pay $30 for 5 people to go and trying to push Aiden to go to the Cookies and Canvas.A� He held steadfast that he didn’t want to go and wanted to go to the train show.A� I finally relented as part of my newly found attitude of saying “yes, and…” when faced with a decision like that. A�I’m glad that I did.

It started in the car ride. A�When it is just me and one of the boys, I try to find podcasts that they will enjoy, too. A�Aiden is a pop culture freak and he likes all of the current music, so I could have gotten away with the radio. A�I, on the other hand, abhor most of today’s music, so I compromised with the podcasts again. A�I chose the “Playing with Science” episode about soccer and the leftovers of an “Only a Game” episode about Gene Mingo, a football player that I had never know before hearing the episode.

He was only slightly interested in the soccer episode, but it was mainly because he was reading a book. A�He did laugh a few times. A�However, the Gene Mingo episode hooked him and he flipped off the radio when they reported on Mingo’s accidental shooting of his wife. A�We talked about guns and the drugs that led to the accident. A�It was a good talk.

After the episode, he agreed that it was compelling. A�I told him how I like that show because it isn’t like most of sports media. A�Chris told me that he was going to go off on sports media in his latest articleA�and he didn’t hold back. A�While Chris has a valid point about WEEI, ESPN, and much of sports media these days, that wasn’t exactly my point when talking to Aiden. A�I only listen to two podcasts that qualify as sports, “Only A Game” and “Hang Up and Listen.” A�”Hang Up” occasionally gets into the regular stories of the day, but they often give a fresh take. A�”Only a Game” more regularly goes off the beaten track and tells compelling stories that I’d have never heard otherwise. A�I like that. A�Much like the Patriots, sports media just bores me. A�I’m glad that Aiden was able to enjoy the show, too.

Aside from the ride, it was nice to have one on one time with Aiden. A�I don’t know when the last time that happened. A�As the boys get older, they become busier with friends and activities and it becomes more difficult to spend any time with them, never mind hours of uninterrupted time. A�It was time that he volunteered, at the sake of spending time with his friends, and that makes it even more valuable. A�Aside from that, it brought us together with a common interest.

This surprised me. A�Aiden is a “cool kid” in the purest sense of the word. A�He wants the latest sneakers, listens exclusively to popular music, wants to be with the in crowd. A�I never expected that he would be the kid who became the one most interested in model railroads. A�But, here we are. A�He said that he really wanted a train set and even had plans for where he would put it. A�In talking with Christine, I wondered out loud if it might end up being a Paddington 2 scenario where he eventually gets too cool for them and we’ll be left holding all of these expensive train cars. A�But, she said that he asked for one for Christmas last year, but waited until the last minute to do so.

He will grow out of them eventually. A�He may come back to them after he’s done with his teenage years and when he has kids of his own. A�But, and this goes along with why I went to the train show with him even though I wasn’t feeling it initially, he is interested now. A�I want to seize upon that interest and have something that we can have together. A�Something that will let us hold on to his rapidly dwindling time as a kid for just a little while longer.

Well, that got a bit heavy there. A�Sorry. A�The show itself was fun and informative. A�As soon as we walked into the first building, Aiden started looking at trains and I mentioned how they weren’t very expensive. A�The guy at the booth started talking to us about the different kinds of trains. A�I suspect that they don’t get much interaction from people outside of the community. A�Other than kids who just want to see the trains, when someone comes in and shows a serious effort to enter the hobby, they go out of their way to explain things and welcome them. A�We would do well to learn from that attitude, fellow nerds.

For the rest of the show, I was looking at various types of trains to figure out which one I want to get to let him try his hand at building. A�Another couple of people made us feel very welcome and answered our questions. A�We ended, as always, and as you may suspect, at a Lego display. A�I wondered aloud if they still made the powered Lego trains. A�He confirmed that they did, so that might be where we start.

Epilogue

I don’t know the last time that Aiden and I had one on one time that wasn’t interrupted by technology. A�It was an experience that I won’t soon forget and hopefully it had the same effect on him. A�As I stated earlier, you have kids and they are initially with you 24/7. A�They get older and go off to school, meet other people, and get other interests. A�You never know when that mythical “Cats in the Cradle” moment might happen, but you know it’s coming.

I’d like to put it off for as long as humanly possible. A�We have plans to go to at least one hockey game over the next two weeks before the season ends. A�I might just splurge and get tickets to both games because they have a buy one get on free deal going on now. A�I think Christine might have gotten it via email because she bought the tickets. A�A bit surprisingly (but perhaps not because it was Saturday night and college students have better things to do), the game wasn’t very well attended, so they’re pulling out all of the stops to get people to come.

Well, I’ll take advantage of their misfortune and get some time with Aiden as well. A�People tend to only take a look at those around them during times of tragedy. A�The Facebook posts “Hold your kids extra tight tonight and tell them you love them” only come after a terrorist attack or tragic fire. A�I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do those things each and every night. A�We only have a limited amount of time and don’t know when it’s up. A�Tell the people you love them every single day and just do the damn thing.

The Good Old Days

Introduction

My obsession with retro video games started with mine and Liam’s trip to The Quarters a few weeks ago.A� That’s no entirely true.A� While not often one to fall victim to nostalgia, I have always been a fan of the video games of my youth.A� Let’s say that my most recent obsession with retro video games started with our trip to The Quarters.A� It was just such a fun walk down memory lane.

XBox 360 (Skyrim/Fallout)

My second step on the nostalgia tour took me to my XBox 360, where I planned (yet again) to play and attempt to finally beat Skyrim or Fallout 3 or both.A� I already wrote an article about my latest experiences in Skyrim, so I don’t have to repeat myself here.A� In addition, due to the drive tray issues on my XBox 360, I haven’t even loaded Fallout 3.A� Oh well, best laid plans and all of that.

That’s not entirely true. I did test both games to make sure that they loaded.

While Skyrim didn’t (spoiler alert if you haven’t read the other article) quite sate my appetite for recaptured youth, that’s not unexpected.A� I only ever played Morrowind from the Elder Scrolls series and that was well after I had become (at least in the eyes of the law) an adult.A� I never liked Morrowind much.A� I did like Skyrim very much, but it also came into my life during quite a difficult time, so maybe I just need to recalibrate the game in my brain space to a happier time.

Nintendo GameCube/Sega Dreamcast (Pokemon Colosseum)

Those of you who follow and read the page regularly know that the Nintendo GameCube was a big storyline through the holidays around here.A� The short, short story is that Liam wanted one for Christmas, we didn’t buy one because I was confident that we still own ours, and he ultimately felt jipped by Christmas.A� That led to our trip to The Quarters.A� It also caused a wild search around the house for our old GameCube.

Liam also found my old Dreamcast, which further supported my theory that the GameCube must be somewhere around the house.A� I have my PS1, PS2, DreamCast, and Game Boy Advance.A� I know that I sold my N64 to a local YMCA youth program, and we gave our Wii away to a gift exchange for needy families.A� That is all consoles (not including the more current ones) that I have owned at one time or another.A� All except for that dang GameCube.

I don’t know what happened to you little buddy, but know that you are missed.

As one of our ideas to sooth Liam’s broken heart over Christmas, I decided to load up the Dreamcast.A� I discovered that it has a loose drive door and that it won’t load games consistently.A� I did get House of the Dead to the loading screen.A� Other than that, it keeps kicking me back to the main menu.A� Oh well, best laid plans and all that.

Liam did finally collect enough money by selling some gift cards he got for Christmas to buy the system and the game that he wanted for it, Pokemon Colosseum.A� I’m glad that we could help him come up with the money to buy it.A� I’ve never seen him so happy about a game.A� I suspect that when he’s my age, Pokemon will be one of his go to games for warm and fuzzy feelings from his youth.

Nintendo 64 (Legend of Zelda:A� Ocarina of Time)

I loaded this one on a whim a couple of weeks ago.A� It is probably my second favorite Legend of Zelda game that I’ve played behind A Link to the Past.A� Quinn got kicked out of the living room one night while Christine was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the older boys, so he took a seat next to me and watched me play.A� It has become an almost nightly date for me to sit down and play Zelda while Quinn watches and they watch Buffy or Stranger Things if it is just Christine and Aiden.

Most people hate the water temple level, but I’ve never had much of an issue with it. I am, however, currently stuck on the Jabu Jabu level.

Game Boy Advance (Pokemon Pinball)

I can’t fully explain my interest in these types of games.A� I do know that I played the heck out of Sonic Spinball on my Genesis when I was younger.A� I also grew up with a father who couldn’t really get into video games, but loved a good pinball machine.A� I remember going to the boardwalk and he would go up and down the line of pinball machines with his handful of quarters until he found one that he liked.A� Okay, maybe I can fully explain it.

The thing that I can’t explain is with all of the games that I have available to me on this system, why is this the first one that I play?A� I have a history with Pokemon all the way back to the first games and I played and enjoyed Pokemon Sun a couple of years ago.A� But, I’m not crazy about Pokemon like Liam.A� I don’t know.A� There’s just something about this game that calls to me.A� Maybe it just is the connection to my dad, pinball, and those memories.

Atari 2600 (Various, but mostly Frostbite right now)

And so, we return all the way back to my beginning with video games, the Atari 2600.A� This is the first console I ever owned, bought by my parents for Christmas one year?A� Maybe?A� I honestly don’t remember how we ended up with one in the house, but it was so cool to be able to “play the games from the arcade” in my living room.A� Sure, Pac-Man wasn’t even close to an accurate port, E.T. is routinely blamed for killing the console, but Mario Bros and Jungle Hunt both looked and played as close to their arcade brethren as the limited 2600 hardware allowed.

I know I ask this every time the subject comes up, but what was so bad about E.T.? I loved the game and it is one of the first games I beat.

Jungle Hunt, especially, holds a place close to my heart.A� I played the game in the arcade one time, plugging quarters into the machine until I finished all of the levels.A� I don’t remember how much money it took, but it must have been at least 5 and maybe even 10 dollars.A� Well, I split my head open being a dumb kid.A� My parents said that because I was so good when I got the stitches in my head, I could get a prize.A� I chose Jungle Hunt for the Atari 2600 so that I could play it at home and not have to keep dumping quarters into it.

Frostbite, Pitfall, and the other Activision titles are just very good games.A� I especially played Frostbite and Pitfall so much as a kid.A� One of my most vivid memories is playing Pitfall all the way to the end at my grandmother’s house.A� I don’t remember if she also bought a system or if I brought my system with me.A� I just remember playing it until the timer reached all zeroes.

Post Script

I’m not going to go full “back in my day” mode and argue that games were better then than they are now.A� That is simply not true.A� Graphics on modern systems are better.A� More memory and storage allows for better and deeper stories to be told by games.A� Sure the games were fun then, but they are fun now, too.A� The fun of games from my childhood are the fun of children.A� It’s the repetitive and familiar fun that will get old after a couple of weeks or months.A� But, I will enjoy it while it lasts.

This Little Pika Went to the Gym

Introduction

Well, a day of substitute teaching and the college championship game were enough to distract me from posting anything to either page yesterday.A� Therefore, I have to be extra dilligent about making sure that I start my daily posts again today.A� I realize that I won’t be able to update the page daily when I go back to work in a week and a half.A� However, if I make that the goal now, when I am teaching again, 2-3 updates per week wont’ feel so cumbersome.

I’ve done a couple of articles about Pokemon Go in the past.A� Like most other pages, I wrote about the improbable, unbelievable, and almost inexplicable initial success and then the inevitable crash of the game.A� Since then, I have played the game on a semi-regular basis.A� Quinn wanted to do his little kid podcast about Pokemon this week, so I thought this is as good a time as any to revisit the game.

The Good

When the game first released, there were words upon words to create paragraphs and pages (if pages still existed in their traditional form in our digital world) about the exercise benefits of the game.A� It inspired people to get out into the outside world by leading them to new or possibly previously unexplored places.A� Gyms gave important items like potions and eggs.A� In order to hatch the eggs, you needed to walk 2, 5, or 10k.

The phenomenon was so ubiquitous that it married an established meme and had little meme babies.

Any time you went to a new place, you opened up the app to see what new types of Pokemon might be available in that area.A� We went to the beach and I remember being excited when I saw and caught my first Staryu.A� After the beach, we went to a restaurant and Quinn and I had way too much fun taking pictures of Pokemon on our food plates.A� Just as unlikely as getting people to go outside and exercise, Pokemon Go got them to interact socially.

In addition to taking those pictures and posting them online, you could always recognize another Pokemon Go player.A� I know that we aren’t supposed to stereotype, but anytime you saw someone who was just a bit too pale for the time of year and they were looking at their phone, there was a good chance that they were playing Pokemon Go.A� At the beginning, all you could do was tip your hoodie to them, trade war stories, and maybe contact information depending on how brave you felt.A� Niantic promised other ways to interact, but they were slow in implementing them.

It doesn’t make it any better, but this is always the reaction to new and interesting things. “Wow, this thing is very interesting! You should check it out!” *later* “God, I liked this thing so much better when there weren’t so many people interested in it.”

One of the ways that have finally been brought into the game that have allowed people to get together and be social is raids.A� The only experience I have with raids is that it looked like one was going on during our trip to the aquarium in Woods Hole, someone posted something on Facebook about one happening in town in an attempt to get a group (but it never happened) and I foolishly tried to solo one that was happening down the street.A� I didn’t get a chance to try the raid while on the Cape for a couple of reasons, but I wish I had just taken the time to check it out.A� Living in a small town without many tech or gaming savvy people strikes again as I haven’t gotten an opportunity like that since.

The Bad

Because of the community aspect of raiding, as I just mentioned, I don’t get any chances to experience what is now a fundamental part of the game.A� As a result, I’m stuck playing the game as it was released.A� Walking down the street to the local Wal*Mart, I keep an eye out for Pokemon and hope that 10k egg hatches into something interesting or fun.A� Look, I’m not one to needless complain about something and I hope that’s not what this sounds like.A� I mean, I am complaining (and it may be needless because there are ways to combat the isolation), but I also think I have a valid point.

Okay, okay. I get the point. At least I’ll hatch a ton of eggs.

Because, other than the raids, there aren’t a ton of new features.A� I think I saw something about weather effects determining Pokemon spawns and there are new Pokemon, which I said earlier is one of the most fun parts of the game (and in fact the reason that the games exists), but some of the most anticipated features have not been included in the game.A� There are no trainer battles.A� There is no trading of Pokemon.A� Those, too, are integral to the games and need to be a part of this game for it to ever be considered in the same league as the other games.

The Ugly

I did an article about Mario Run before Thanksgiving.A� That is another Nintendo property that has made the move to mobile.A� I enjoy that game quite a bit and a major reason why is that Nintendo hasn’t given into the real money pressure that mobile puts on developers.A� Most mobile games give you the full game, but to get the full experience, players quickly realize that they have to pay real money for items or experience.A� Mario Run has none of that and it is a refreshing oasis in the salty sea of P2E (Pay to Exist) of the rest of the mobile gaming library.

I was careful earlier to call Mario Run a Nintendo property.A� Nintendo owns that one and they developed the game.A� However, Pokemon Go is a Nintendo property, but Niantic has made the actual game.A� That was important in the article that I wrote about Pokemon Go user base crashing once people realized just how limited the game was and it was even worse than now.A� I said then that the game felt like a beta test that somehow made it to release.A� That’s not the ugly anymore.A� The game still feels unfinished, but it’s getting better.

My main complaint about the game is that Niantic has embraced the real money trend that I dislike so much.A� They aren’t pushing it as much as other games.A� It isn’t necessary to buy things to advance in the game.A� However, I have noticed that when I logged in a few times or checked out the webpage or social media for the game, they’ve been testing the waters a bit with taking that route.

99 cents to win the game? What is the objective of the game? To remove the ads?

The Verdict

Look, I get that game companies need to make money.A� I also get that this is the environment that mobile games have grown up in and that it is harder to get people to pay money up front for games that are so simple that they can fit on your phone.A� However, phones are getting more powerful and some of the games are more interesting and have as good or better gameplay than their console counterparts.A� It only takes one success before others start to attempt to mimic that success.A� If Pokemon Go can just resist the P2W siren song and start to build back up its user base, maybe it can lead to a new era in mobile gaming.

That’s certainly not going to happen if they don’t implement those features that are missing.A� Since the early announcement that they were thinking/considering/dreaming of possibly thinking about maybe putting together a committee that might introduce trading and trainer battles to the game I have not heard any more discussion along those lines.A� It’s probably tough to make them happen, but it would be nice to get an update about the possible update.A� Oh well, I will just continue to try to find funny pictures to post on our Instagram and get excited every time that new Pokemon type pops up on the screen when I open the app.

2 Generations Gaming 2017 in Review

Introduction

It’s the first day of 2018.A� This is the time every year that is traditionally set aside for reflection on the previous 365 (or 366) days.A� There are countdowns, marathons, and years in review.A� This article falls into the last category.A� While it has been difficult to maintain a consistent video or podcast schedule, I’ve done okay at updating the web page with at least one article a month.A� I’ve also kept busy with plenty of other geeky fun.A� Let’s reminisce on the best, the worst, and the ugliest.

The Good

APBA Baseball:A� I only recently rediscovered this game in one of my closets and I’m going to write an article this week about the couple of games I played last week.A� I know that others might prefer Strat-O-Matic or another simulator, but this is the only one I’ve played and it does what I want it to do.A� Overall, this has been a great addition to my gaming life again and I can’t wait to dive deeper into the baseball simulation greatness.

Mobile Gaming:A� Old school favorites like Candy Crush and Angry Birds.A� New favorites like Sim City Build It, Fallout Shelter, Magic the Gathering Puzzle Quest, and Pokemon Go.A� All of these games have been played with great regularity over the past year on my phone.A� In fact, most of my video game time has been spent on my phone.A� That’s saying something for a person who used to denigrate all mobile games as shovelware.

Eternal/Hearthstone:A� Yes, these are both games that could have technically been included in the mobile section.A� However, they’ve had more impact on me than the other games included in that list.A� I started playing Eternal during one of my rage quits from Hearthstone earlier in the year.A� I had seen Brian Kibler playing the game on stream and figured I’d give it a chance.A� I’m glad that I did.A� While I don’t play it as much as when I first started, it still has a place in my weekly rotation.A� I have had an up and down relationship with Hearthstone.A� However, as I said to Chris a couple of days ago, I seem to have found my comfort zone in the game.A� I have little to no interest in competitive play of any sort.A� I generally just log in every couple of days to do quests, earn gold, and every now and then win a pack that I won’t open.

Comics:A� 2017 was the year that saw me get back into comics.A� Marvel’s Secret Empire event led to a discovery of the well executed DC Rebirth titles.A� Following them for a few months led right into Metal and sticking with Secret Empire to the end let me experience the start of Legacy.A� Almost all of these events were well executed, but it wasn’t all good for comics this year.A� More on that later.

Magic the Gathering:A� You wouldn’t think that I’d rank this so highly in the good category.A� Given that Chris and I discussed a few times how little we had played the game this year.A� I wasn’t even watching streams.A� It just looked like the game had run its course for us.A� Then, a couple of things happened.A� Well, on my end, one major thing happened.A� During one of our summer trips, I played Magic with all three boys.A� First, we played a couple of two headed giant games with decks that I had built over the years.A� Then, I picked up the Nicol Bolas box set and finally the Explorers of Ixalan.A� We haven’t played the Explorers yet, but there is time.A� Any game that gets me closer to my kids is a great game.

The Best:A� I know that it came late in the year, but any time a Star Wars movie is released and it is half decent, that will be the best thing about my year.A� When it is one of the best of the franchise, it will be the best thing of the decade.A� When I get to experience it with my kids and father in law, it just might be one of the highlights of my life.A� I won’t say much more because I have an article planned to go into more detail, but I absolutely loved this movie and it was a perfect way to start my holiday break.

The Bad

No New Console:A� This is the first year in a few that we haven’t gotten a new console.A� I was going back and forth for a few weeks on whether or not to buy an XBox One Minecraft edition.A� I’ve had my eye on it for a while.A� Then, there seems to have been a mix up with my last December check and unless I sub in January, I won’t get paid at all, so economics won out.A� Liam did buy himself a Gamecube and we found the Dreamcast (but it needs to be repaired), so there are some “new” games being played right now, but no new hardware makes me feel a bit sad.A� We won’t be down for long, though.A� We are looking at a Switch and I’m almost positive that I’ll get an XBox in February.

The Worst:A� Only two for this one?A� Yep, and only two for the next one, too.A� By now, you should know my very positive outlook on things and this shouldn’t come as a surprise.A� Also, the fact that I just talked so much about how comics were a good thing this year might also make this choice for “the worst” seem weird at best and probably perplexing.A� But, I have a valid explanation.A� I loved the stories and art of the comics, but hated the cover prices.A� I was spending far too much money on them and I couldn’t justify doing so anymore.A� At least with games, I get massive replay value from them and they allow me to spend more time with my kids.A� Comics did neither of those.A� It was 3-7 dollars spent on 10-15 minutes of enjoyment.A� That’s just awful.

The Ugly

Our Podcast Lineup:A� I was just talking to a friend (and one of the first fans of the page) about the 2 Guys Gaming podcast.A� He said something about how he thought it was damn good and that it could have been something.A� Not one to take compliments very gracefully, I changed the subject quickly.A� However, the podcasts are fun for me to do and I really want to get back to doing them.A� There have been a few that I listen to that have taken long breaks and come back stronger.A� One, in particular, stopped and started a few times, but it is again one of my favorites.A� So, our planning is ugly, but hopefully by this time next year, it will be good.

Nerd on Nerd Violence:A� This is something that I’ve often spoken against.A� However, as nerd culture has become popular culture, the nerd on nerd violence has increased to an unacceptable level.A� It used to be that when you were picked on by somebody, you always had your nerd buddies to get your back.A� If there was an actual fight, you’d all get your butts kicked, but they were there to take your mind off of being the brunt of some sort of physical or psychological abuse.A� Now, some of the worst abuse of nerds is coming from other nerds.A� It isn’t just good-natured joke fights about whether Star Trek or Star Wars is better.A� It’s full on attacks of each other and the things we hold dear.A� I’m going to talk about this more in my Star Wars article and it might just be that all violence is increasing, but this makes me incredibly sad.

The Verdict

2017 wasn’t all fun and games.A� It wasn’t all poorly executed puns, either.A� It was a good bordering on great year that gives us an excellent foundation to make 2018 even better.A� Happy New Year, All!A� Make it the best one ever!

Just Like Old Times?

Prologue

This year was a tough Christmas for Liam.A� He discovered the big reveal about the big man.A� When he talked with Christine, he said that he already knew a few years ago, but this year it became official when Christine said that he wasn’t going to get Santa presents anymore.A� I never grew up with Santa, so I can’t fully sympathize with what he’s going through, so Christine has just continued to deal with the fallout.A� In my defense, I did have a couple of ideas to help him.A� One, I offered to purchase the gift cards that he didn’t want to give him the cash for his desired “Santa” present, a Gamecube for Pokemon Colosseum.A� Also, I suggested that he and I go to the Quarters in Hadley (also, he wanted to buy some books at Barnes and Noble with one of his gift cards) just the two of us to get out of the house and have some guy time together.

Journal

We’ve been to the Quarters at least once before.A� I’m pretty sure we were there twice, but I definitely remember one other visit for my birthday a few years ago.A� Christine got a Groupon deal and we used it on one of their Super Cereal Saturdays.A� They sell it as a way to recapture the magic of cereal and Saturday morning cartoons.A� I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m not usually much of a nostalgia guy, but there are some aspects of my youth that I treasure and want to relive.A� This is one of the ones that got me big time.

After all, our generation (I know, generations are an idiotic way to define a group of diverse individuals, but bear with me on this one) are the absolute masters of nostalgia, both real and imagined.A� Generation X, if you believe in such a for some reason, constantly looks to the past to define their present and future.A� Heck, we were the ones who tried to relive Woodstock without ever actually having been there, except through the copies of the record in our parent’s collections.A� That might be one of the reasons that I generally push back on nostalgia.A� Well, that and the fact that things really weren’t better “back then” by and large.

Make America Great Again, amirite?

I’ve already discussed comic books as one of my nostalgia triggers.A� I’m also planning an end of the year extravaganza for the weekend.A� So, I suppose something about the end of the year and my looming 42 (the answer to life, the universe, and everything) birthday have me looking back.A� Like comic books, arcades and arcade games hold a special place in my past.A� Unlike comic books, which gave me a quiet escape in a fantasy setting from people, the arcade was a social experience for me.

My friend Kevin, who you may know from our lost episode 2 of the now far too long dormant podcast, and I used to spend almost all of our free time and money at the arcade.A� I say almost all because the remainder of it was spent at McDonalds or the movie theater.A� It started for the two of us with stupidly epic battles on the first Mortal Kombat machine where neither of us knew a damn thing other than the graphics were killer and so was the violence.

We graduated to MKII, then unfortunately, MK3.A� All the while, we dabbled with other games like Primal Rage, Virtua Fighter, and Street Fighter.A� When one or the other was on a winning streak against other competition, we moved on to single player games like Super Mario Bros and Tetris.A� As our sphere of influence grew because mutual friends became more interested in sports than nerdy pursuits, we got together a 4 man group to tackle Gauntlet, X-Men, The Simpsons, and TMNT.

Arcades were big enough to place honorable mention old schoolers in the corner to give us youngsters a history lesson.

When I went off to college, Kevin and I lived together in a tiny apartment above a store that my extended family owned.A� When Kevin had to return home, I found myself taking the bus out to the mall to hit up the arcade because I missed having him around.A� Even today, the love affair with video games continues.A� We sent each other Steam games for Christmas this year.A� I chose an old school style D&D dungeon crawler to remind him of the days that we wasted on his old PC playing those games after school.

So, the pull that I felt towards the Quarters every time we drove or rode by on our bikes was real.A� Almost every game in there has some memory or another attached to it.A� If it doesn’t, then I wanted to try the game and see if I could make it memorable.A� Once again, what got me back into the arcade was a promotion.A� They offer unlimited tokens on Tuesdays from 5 until closing for 5 dollars.A� It isn’t a bad deal either.A� As a barcade, they are open until 1 am.A� I didn’t think that either of us could make it that far, but we were both still ready to play at 9:00 when I finally decided to play Dad and start the drive home.

When this is one of the faces you see from your teenager and he speaks exclusively in YouTube videos and memes, you just have no idea.

Epilogue

It’s often difficult for parents to know if they are doing right by their kids.A� As I’ve discussed with Kevin on more than occasion, you don’t know if you’ve screwed them up until it is too late.A� But, I’m positive that this was the right decision.A� Liam seemed to have a great time, I had a great time, and he thanked me for taking him out.A� That almost never happens voluntarily anymore.

Things get busy (“And the cat’s in the cradle”) and, as our terrible podcast schedule (what podcast schedule?!) shows, we lost track of time.A� But, I really have to start making a conscious effort to do these things.A� I joke about Liam becoming a teenager, mostly because it is a defense mechanism against facing the reality that he isn’t a “kid” anymore.A� He’s growing into the adult that he will someday be.A� While I love watching it happen, I also find myself doing what I never thought I would.

I never thought I’d miss the days when…fill in the blank.A� But, when I look at Liam now, I don’t see that crazy little boy who changed my life 13 years ago.A� I see a young man who is still changing my life, but in vastly different ways.A� Every now and then, I have to take a breath, push that pause button, and revel in the silliness of youth.A� There will be a time, sooner than I I’d like to admit, that it won’t be there for a few years.

Impressions of Ixalan

Introduction

I was in Wal*Mart with Aiden a couple of weeks ago.A� That’s how most middle age dad stories start.A� Gone are the days of, “Oh, man, I was so drunk…” or “And that’s when the goat walked by!”A� I’m not saying that it is better or worse, just different.A� Oh, and much better.A� Getting drunk just leads to poor decisions and hangovers and goats stink.

So, Aiden and I were in Wal*Mart for some reason or another.A� Who the hell knows at this point?A� They put a Wal*Mart in town locally that then donned a cape to become a Super Wal*Mart (which are technically just regular Wal*Marts at this point and the regular Wal*Marts are K*Marts or Ames or some nonsense, I don’t exactly know) a few years ago.A� Ever since, because it is so convenient, I find myself at that store at least once a day on average.A� That’s not to say that I go there every day, but the days that I do go there, I go multiple times, so it probably totals at least 365.25 times in a year.

Okay, time to get serious about this.A� For whatever reason, a couple of weeks ago, I was walking through Wal*Mart with Aiden and I stumbled on the Explorers of Ixalan box set.A� With almost no hesitation, I bought it.A� We have played the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set (as mentioned in a few articles on the page) a few times and enjoyed it, so I thought it would be good to pick this one up, too.A� Due to the craziness of the holidays and end of semester, we haven’t been able to play it, but I have looked through it and will give my impressions of what I know about it so far.

The Good

I texted Chris to tell him that I bought the game.A� He responded with, “Never heard of it.”A� I explained it a bit to him and said, “I really like what they’re doing with casual Magic.”A� It has taken them a while, but it feels like they are finally embracing the casual player in more ways than just, “Hey, look, we have a semi-casual event every week called Friday Night Magic that plays exactly like the professional events, but worse because you haven’t committed your every waking moment to building meta decks.”A� Players like me who have absolutely no interest in Standard or Modern and only limited (ha, ha) interest in draft and sealed were left out in the cold.

Cold? Another Shining reference? Nah, the cold never bothered me anyway.

That started to change with some of the prerelease events.A� I think they might have listened to some of the players who started to wonder out loud what the audience for prereleases were.A� I took my kids a couple of times because I thought they would be less stress and more fun than a typical event (even FNM), but the competition was still fierce and the barrier for entry was still high.A� We haven’t been back since, but I’ve watched the events change and they’re making them a bit more varied and noob friendly from what I gather.A� Perhaps I’ll attend the next one to see if that’s true.

Aside from that, they have also started to run some new events that introduce players into the game.A� They give away a free deck, teach players the fundamentals of the game, and have a much more friendly atmosphere for newer players.A� I won’t go out as far as I have in the past to say that they were losing revenue, but both Chris and I (casual players, me much more so than him) were speaking like we’d never play another hand of Magic again.A� I doubt that we’re the barometer for that sort of thing, but I did start to wonder out loud if the game was suffering a little bit from ignoring that part of the player base.

What better way to hook ’em than with free? Even Heisenberg knows that.

Well, if recent history is to be believed, they aren’t ignoring us anymore.A� The Archenemy game put together 4 decent decks to play against an uber powerful deck in the same way that the WoW TCG had it’s raid decks.A� The price point was great for getting as many cards as you did and the game mode itself is fun enough for multiple plays.A� Looking at Explorers of Ixalan, it appears as if they were testing the waters with the Archenemy box and that they expanded it with this set.

In addition to the traditional card game, this one has a territory acquisition aspect in the form of cards.A� I haven’t looked closely at the cards, but they look to give bonuses like card draw or stats and keywords for your cards.A� So, in addition to fending off three other players (since it is a free for all not a 2 headed giant game), you also have to plan your strategy for how to approach the tiles in the game.A� Choose carefully and be the first to find the lost city!

The Bad

Personally, I think that this is a great addition and makes this game unique among Magic the Gathering.A� I hope that they plan on continuing to do this type of thing, but I’ve been wrong before.A� I really liked the Arena of the Planeswalkers game, too, even if the set up was a bit convoluted.A� They only made a couple of them and then stopped.A� I think it might have just been because the game played too differently from Magic, so Magic fans didn’t like it too much and it was a bit too complicated for non fans to get into the game.

So, while I worry that this might be a one off, I don’t foresee it falling into the same category as the board game.A� If that game “suffered” from not being close enough to Magic, this one doesn’t have that problem.A� It’s exactly a Magic game with this other piece grafted on top of it.A� Still, the possibility exists that this doesn’t sell and that Wizards will kill this arm of Magic before you know it.

I have no idea what the company’s thoughts are on games that don’t provide a return.A� I’m sure that Hasbro will be willing to let this division be a loss leader for a while similar to how Disney let Marvel comics division do the same.A� However, the mouse has come knocking and there’s a chance that this might end up just being a one off and I’ll have none of this to look forward to ever again.

The Verdict

This looks like a fun way to play Magic the Gathering.A� I will get the boys together next week over vacation to play it and then give my actual thoughts about the game.A� I don’t think it will happen next week as we are trying to get the podcast up and running again.A� If nothing else, it will be an annual tradition to talk about Star Wars.A� So, look for my review of Explorers of Ixalan in two weeks.

Recapturing the Magic

Introduction

I did an article a few weeks ago about the Nicol Bolas Archenemy set after playing it with Aiden and Quinn.A� While we still haven’t had a chance to play all four of us, we did simulate the experience recently.A� I played as both Bolas and one of the Gatewatch decks.A� What I found is that the encounter is tuned for 3 players to face the dragon.A� Not a huge surprise, but fun to see how precise Wizards has gotten in tuning the game.A� There are still powerful cards and decks in all formats, but they have come a long way since the overpowered Tarkir block and Standard is the most open that I’ve seen in the 3 or 4 years that I’ve been watching.A� In either case, once we get a chance to play the game as it is intended with all four of us, I will give another impression.A� This article is about the latest expansion, Ixalan.

The Good

Chris and I have been texting a bit back and forth about the recent sets.A� Nothing really jumped out at us from Kaladesh or Amonkhet, even if he was excited about the theme of Amonkhet.A� I think I might have mentioned it in my last article, but it didn’t even look like Ixalan would get me back into the game.A� Then, a few things happened.A� One, I stopped collecting comic books again.A� I enjoyed the stories and the community that I was starting to build, but I just couldn’t justify the cover prices anymore, especially at the rate I was buying the books.A� That freed up some money for other nerd pursuits.A� Then, I ran the idea of the set by Liam and he said, “Cool!”

Pirates and dinosaurs?! What more do you need?!

So, I took that saved comic book money and I blew it on a booster box and Fat Pack (now called a “bundle”, I think) for Ixalan because that’s how I roll.A� Primarily, I’ve been a collector and that usually gives me the most bang for my buck.A� I get a majority of the cards from the set for my binder and usually enough to add some cards to the couple of decks that I still have.

Granted, I still have to open the product.A� Some of that is neglect on my part.A� It took me forever to open my Amonkhet packs.A� I might even have half of a box that wasn’t opened.A� I know for a fact that we have Dicemasters left to open from the box that I purchased for the draft that we did a few months ago.A� Most of it, though, is that Liam was so excited for the cards that I wanted to open them when he had a chance to help us.A� He’s been in play, which has been intense over the last two weeks because it was showtime, but now that’s all over.A� In addition, I’d like to capture some content for a YouTube channel that has been criminally ignored for the better part of 2 years.

Actual footage from our YouTube channel. Actually, this would get more views.

So, this whole review is a bit disingenuous.A� When has that ever stopped us?A� I can definitely say that it is a good thing that I’m back into the game of Magic, even if I haven’t actually played against Chris in several months.A� A�He, too, has seen his interest in the game grow through his online business selling cards, so it might only be a matter of time before we get together for one of our infamous nerd nights and bust out the Magic cards.

The Bad

Knowing very little about the set, I can’t really give much in the ways of honest impressions, as I said earlier.A� However, I will say that no matter my chosen nerd hobby of the moment, I tend to go overboard.A� I was spending almost 200 dollars a month in comics for most of the year.A� I bought a box of Dicemasters and Heroclix to prepare for a podcast episode that was supposed to be made several months ago (and finally hopefully will this weekend).A� I always buy a booster box and fat pack of every Magic set (including going back in history to the first Mirrodin set when I started getting back into gaming all those years ago) and I’m now trying to resist purchasing an XBox One, even though it would make for good gaming partners with Kevin, maybe Chris, and the boys.

Tom gets me.

So, it is bad that I’m back into Magic. A�It isn’t as bad as if I decided to start buying comics again. A�I think I might have even said as much to Chris during one of our conversations. A�Something along the lines of Magic might have been expensive, but at least it was only 200 dollars every couple of months instead of every month and the cards have more utility than the comic books. A�The comic books are easier to display, but who the hell do I have coming to my house to look at my comic book collection? A�At least with the cards, I can play the game against my kids even if Chris and I are too busy to hang out.

The Ugly

You know, I put together this format early in my blogging career…wait, can you call it a career if you’ve never made a dime from it? A�Nevertheless, this format worked well for my Steelers page because there’s almost always at least one good thing, one bad thing, and one really terrible thing that you can take from a sporting event, if it is properly framed. A�However, being critical of creative projects is a much trickier proposition and I don’t always have something terrible to say about them. A�I understand that people often put their hearts and souls into the creative pursuits and therefore try to find the good in them. A�Usually I can stretch to find a bad, but “The Ugly” is usually just me explaining myself or making an awkward joke.

Worst. Critic. Ever.

Maybe I will try a little harder to find things that I don’t like for these reviews. A�Maybe I will better research a product before posting a review of it. A�After all, Googling “Ixalan spoilers” isn’t exactly the epitome of responsible journalism. A�Maybe I will tweak the format to more appropriately match my overall optimistic and sunny demeanor. A�After all, it is based on a 50 year old movie and probably not speaking to the demographic that we should be courting.

The Verdict

Pirates and dinosaurs were enough to get me interested in Magic again. A�I can’t speak personally on the overall quality of the set, but having watched a few Twitch streams recently, I do think that the Standard meta is healthy and that Wizards has recovered nicely from the stale experience that the overpowered Tarkir block brought. A�It’s a bit bad for my budget that I’m into Magic again, but not nearly as bad as comic books were. A�Overall, I’m excited about the game again and that’s a positive.