I’m on a Boat!

(Editor’s Note: Every time I think I’m out, Chris pulls me right back in.)

(Editor’s Note 2: The first standard tournament on Star City Games after the release of this set was filled with these types of jokes. I’m not hip enough to actually know the source of the joke. I am just hip enough to understand that it is a joke and to chuckle when I hear it. We truly live in a wondrous time.)

I was out. Way out. Orbiting the planet with plans to travel to Mars out. In the past when I’ve been out, I’ve stayed connected through tournaments on Twitch. I wasn’t even doing that this time. Chris had a group that he played modern with, so I wasn’t even as inspired to keep connected for our monthly nerd nights. I honestly thought that I might be done with the hobby.

That all changed with Kaladesh spoilers. The set looked so much different from anything else they’ve released recently. While the story is just as depressing as recent sets, the art direction is much more bright and cheerful. Though, as I said to Chris, “The next set is called Aether Revolt”, so it is only a matter of time before the Eldrazi or Phyrexians or Phyrexdrazi return to bring the pain. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I did have too much fun playing with this card in the first duels game against the computer.
I did have too much fun playing with this card in the first duels game against the computer.

My actual return to the game started with a draft. Let me explain. Before you think that I’ve evolved from an awkward Caterpie to a Social Butterfree, it was only between me and Chris. Unlike him, I have little to no use for constructed Magic. It is always the same decks and strategies with almost no room for imaginations. Once decks are found that work, they are set. Vintage is Eldrazi or Shops (sometimes both) and Jace. Legacy is Miracles or bust (and, by extension Jace) and modern is all about comboing out by turn four. I don’t mind watching them, but I don’t know if I’ll ever play any of those formats. I used to say the same about Standard, but there are some interesting control decks that are evolving in the format. I might try some of hem if I can ever get the computer set up long enough to use xMage.

Draft doesn’t have that problem. Since you open fresh packs per person, everyone is on an even field with respect to availability of cards. Well, still to busy or nervous or both to make it out to an actual store with other people to play, I started researching ways that Chris and I might be able to draft. I admit that I didn’t have much hope for our prospects.

Magic is traditionally between two players, but the limited formats always seem to favor between 6 and 8. Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to find several two player draft possibilities. I settled on Winchester and Chris went along with it after I explained to him how it worked. I made a date to play, grabbed the appropriate amount of packs, and got to it.

Once again, Shaun of the Dead offers the best advice.
Once again, Shaun of the Dead offers the best advice.

For those who are interested, we chose a Winchester draft according to these rules. (Edit: The page that I got the rules from seems to no longer be active. Guess that means that we can write our own. Look for that soon!) This removed much of the mystery and strategy of not knowing what cards were chosen. We further removed any of the unknown by keeping our choices face up. Honestly, though, most of the surprise was gone simply by having only two players.

Don’t interpret that to mean that we didn’t have fun or that there was no challenge. Quite the opposite. I still found it quite challenging to find the cards to build a deck from my half of the hodge podge of cards presented by the 6 packs. The games were fun, too I’m almost positive that Chris felt the same way because he agreed to redraft and then to get together after Kaladesh release to do it all again.

That draft got me back into the game, but Kaladesh cemented my interest and has kept me coming back for more. I watched the first SCG event after the release and even watched the top 8 of the GP. I’m glad that I did because control was on full display in those matches and I’m a huge control fan.

I love the games that go on for time and then need turns after to settle. Clog the board to stave off defeat and then crush your opponent’s will in the late game. Blue Magic is the only true Magic!

I mean, look at that board and this is a draft.
I mean, look at that board and this is a draft.

That’s what I did to Chris in our two Kaladesh head to head drafts. It is tough to do a pure control build in draft unless you get a bomb (we didn’t), but I put together a decent Esper-ish (mostly UB with a splash of W for Dovin Baan) deck that stabilized after a sizzling opener by Chris. Not overly impressed by the card, Dovin Baan actually helped greatly.

I don’t remember if we redrafted this time. I should really start keeping a record of these things if I’m going to report out on them. In any case, I had Dovin Baan in both games. The second game went much like the first game expect Chris got me much lower much fater in that one before I stabilized. Also, Dovin Baan wasn’t as integral in my plan. We was more of the “win more” card I expected him to be when I first saw him.

He does blue things and some white things, so I was pretty happy to durdle along with this chap.
He does blue things and some white things, so I was pretty happy to durdle along with this chap.

Kaladesh more than lived up to my expectations. That’s saying something because I had high hopes for the set. It did not disappoint and was fun to play as a draft set. More surprising, the set got me to watch Standard and even get excited about the format. As Chris agreed when I texted him that I wanted to watch Standard and was excited for it, “That never happens.” Heck, I even clicked on Wizard’s link for “Standard show down” when it popped up in my feed. I’m not going to enter, but I considered it briefly, so that’s something.

Finally, and least important to everyone but me, I have started collecting again. I took my spending money from the last few checks to buy boxes and fat packs of the sets that I missed during my break from the game. After the holidays, I plan to do some singles shopping to fill out my binders. I will also have to buy Aether Revolt.

As much as I’ve ever been, I am back into the Magic scene. I’m not going to be entering any tournaments (but, as always, I might to a draft or two), but I am watching them. I’m not building competitive decks (though I have proxied a Legacy/Modern dredge deck that I might try to construct), but I do have 3 fun Tiny Leaders decks and ideas for others plus a few Commander decks. Who knows? I may grow bored again or find some other expensive distraction. For now, though, I am completely and totally invested in Magic.

El jefe es muerto! Vive el jefe!

(Editor’s Note: It is bad enough that Steam runs regular season sales. Now that I have discovered Humble Bundle, I’m destined to live the rest of my life in poverty. At least I won’t have enough money to do anything besides play through my massive back log of games.)

A few months ago, Humble Bundle offered Tropico 4 for free for some reason. Never one to turn down cheap–or, in this case, free–games, I got the code and loaded it into my Steam account. I have been using my tank Acer laptop. While it survives almost everything, it can’t run even the most basic game. Therefore, my treasure remained unplayed until I was able to upgrade the desktop to a respectable gaming PC.

Well, I am sorry to report that it still remains largely unplayed. I downloaded it and have been working through the tutorial, but the computer is having issues. Randomly, it will freeze and buzz. The frustrating part is that there is no BSOD. At least in that case, I could Google the error code and have a starting point. Instead, Googleing “Windows 10 freeze and buzz” has produced results ranging from bad memory (tested, but more on that later) to a sound control conflict (tested). I also removed a second monitor because it might have been an HDMI adapter conflict (nope!) The last possibility is that it is overheating. I will check that soon because so far I’m enjoying what I’ve played of the game and want to provide an in depth review. An update: I checked temps and it isn’t that, either. I think that it might just be an issue with Windows 10 at this point. Next step, installing Windows 7. Ihate the Windows monopoly.

Who would have ever guessed that someone would actually miss the blue screen of death?  I guess it's true what they say.  You don't truly appreciate what you have until it's gone.
Who would have ever guessed that someone would actually miss the blue screen of death? I guess it’s true what they say. You don’t truly appreciate what you have until it’s gone.

Okay, an update. I downloaded the image file for Windows 7 and downgraded the computer. I say “downgraded”, but so far it has been upgraded to an actual working computer. A little more than 24 hours and I am happy to report no freezing and no buzzing, so that’s a positive development. Hopefully, it isn’t just a hiccup and I can get to playing some SimCity with Banana Republic flavor.

I’m happy to report that they “pepper” that “flavor” in just the right mix of “seasoning” to create the perfect “recipe”. Holy, cow, that was a lot of wordplay in one sentence. I might need to take a break afte that one. No! I’m strong enough to power through. The fans need me.

The game opens with an “everything is fine” splash page of a hot air balloon accompanied by a quote from a famous historical leader like GWB saying, “This would be so much easier if it was a dictatorship.” (Note: This is not a political statement. It is simply the only one my brain remembers right now.)

Okay, so maybe it was a sneaky political statement, but if you've been following the page, you already know that.
Okay, so maybe it was a sneaky political statement, but if you’ve been following the page, you already know that.

The loading screen fades, predictably into the game menu. I clicked on the “tutorial” option. I’m not sure why I did so. I almost never play though the tutorial of any game and I’ve played so many of these city building type games–especially since they are so revalent on mobile–that I’m pretty sure that I’ve got the basic idea of city building games. You build cities, right?

However I ended up in the tutorial, I was driven by the same strange compulsion to finish it. Even as the first set of missions took me through the very basics of camera control and city building, I continued to click through to mission set #2.

What kept me coming back for more inulting tutorial game play? That banana republic flavor, Man!. The AI guides you through this abuse with the simulated voice of your mentor, Generallisimo Santana. The vignettes between missions are humorous enough to keep even this jaded old man gamer scrolling in and out.

Besides, we have our own wannabe dictator that we need to prepare for.  I assure you, this is not a political statement.
Besides, we have our own wannabe dictator that we need to prepare for. I assure you, this is not a political statement.

Final Note (I hope): Well, the freezing came back and I had no idea that I was able to skip over tutorial missions that I had played before. Therefore, I must have played through the first mission at least a dozen times in between restarts and fits of swearing. However, I have finally figured out what the problem is and it had nothing to do with anything other than a faulty RAM stick. So, about checking that as I said earlier…apparently, I hadn’t done so thoroughly or properly.

The remaining tutorial missions offer no surprises and simply cover the rest of the mechanics unique to these types of games. But, the voice and humor alone made it worth my while to play through them even if they taught me nothing.

The tutorials got me into the game and they got me interested in the game. I guess, on that front, they did their jobs. I’ve found another game to occupy the free time that I don’t really have. Seriously, though, if you are like me and don’t have the money to spend on Civ 6 right now, you are tired of the city building games in your library, but you still want control over thousands of expendable virtual lives (that somehow become like family, at least to me), then drop the 15 bucks for Tropico 4. They also have a collector’s edition with addons for $30. I haven’t played any of them yet (another article idea!), so I can’t recommend them as of this article.

If you’re really cheap, you can wait for it to be included in a Humble Bundle–or maybe as one of their free deals again–or buy Tropico 3 for 99 cents. Again, I can’t vouch for that game, but what do you have to lose other than a buck and a few megs of hard drive space? Heck, you could get 3, 4, and 5 for less than Civ 6. And people wonder why I do my video game shopping in the clearance section. I need money for my newly rediscovered Magic habit.

Viva la resistance! No, wait, that’s not right. Vive el jefe!

My Completely Ignorant NFL ~3/4 Season Report

(Editor’s Note: Who the hell does an NFL 3/4 season report? Well, we’re notorious for doing things differently around here. Plus, I’m perpetually late on even self imposed deadlines, so here it is.)

AFC East(I picked: Pats, Dolphins, Jets, Bills)

Well, I only flipped the Jets and the Bills in my preseason picks, but I was terribly wrong about the Bills. Either that, or the NFL is just terrible this year and the both the Dolphins and Bills are taking advantage of that and making things interesting by hovering around .500 and threatening to make the playoffs. I only thought that the Dolphins might be decent enough to make some noise. My exact quote was that I wanted to relegate the other teams to a lesser league like the premier league. That still applies to the Jets.

AFC West (I picked KC, SD, Denver, Oakland)

I was way wrong here. I mean, the Chiefs are only a game out of first, but I thought that this was going to be another dumpster fire of a division and again, 3 out of the 4 teams are over .500 and by 2 games or more. Oakland is one game off from Dallas for the best record in the league and San Diego is chilling in the basement while their city decides if they even want to keep the team.

AFC North (I picked Cincy, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Browns)

This used to be my home division back when I followed football more closely, so you think that I’d have a better handle on it than the rest of the league. Nope. 2016 has just been the horrible, terrible, very bad year and it extends to my picks this year. Oh well, I guess that’s what we get for living to see the Red Sox, White Sox, and Cubs win a World Series. The universe is exacting karmic retribution. Only good thing I can say is that my Steelers are leading the division (by default, but I’ll take it) and the Browns haven’t won a game just like I said they wouldn’t.

AFC South (I picked Colts, Texans, Titans, Jags)

Flip flopped–fitting in an election year–the top two teams, but to be fair, I think I said that I was sick of picking Houston as my “it” team and having them poop in their pants. Well, to be fair, they are still pooping, just not completely in their pants this year. The Titans eat their boogers and the Jaguars are still smelly fart butts. Sorry, due to time constraints, I commissioned this part of the article to my 5 year old. But, I’m back. At least we can always count on the AFC South to always stink.

NFC East (I picked Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Racist Owners)

Not only was I wrong about the order, but I was wrong about the division completely. The NFC East is back and now we have to listen to all the talking heads wax poetic about how it is the best division in football, the rivalry games are so intense, and generally do a boring job of the only thing that they’re being paid to do. Dammit, this was supposed to be the year that progress marched forward all over the sins of the past, and here we are.

NFC West (I picked Cardinals, Seahawks, 49ers, and Rams)

If any team is indicative of the NFL this year, it is the Rams. They are a terrible team, nobody in the city cares that they exist, but a few people pretend to pay attention and think that it is an entertaining product because of misplaced nostalgia. Somehow, they are just good enough to keep those people coming back. Yeah, I got this one pretty wrong, too.

NFC North (I picked Packers, Viking, Bears, Lions)

I need to pick an “expert” to compare my picks with next year. Hopefully, he will do worse than I have so that I can point my finger and laugh that the guy doing this for fun performed better than the guy getting paid to do it. Because, it is getting boring for me to keep saying that I was wrong and I’m sure it is equally, if not more so, for you to keep reading it. Then again, maybe you’re laughing at the guy who took time out of his busy schedule to not only write a preview of a league that he barely even watches anymore, but came back 3 months to revisit those predictions and learn that maybe if you’re going to write about something, you should know a bit about it, Dummy. If so, I’ll take it. If you can’t be right, at least be entertaining.

NFC South (I picked Panthers, Bucs, Saints, and Falcons)

We have mercifully reached the end of the article and can put this poor thing out of its misery. As one last hope (no, it hasn’t been completely smothered under the weight of all this greatness yet), I will say that I’ve only flipped the first and the last team in this division, there are 6 games left in the season, and only 2 games separate those two teams, so there is still a chance for Carolina to get hot. With our luck this year, that hotness will cause them to catch fire and burn down both Southern divisions. Then again, maybe that will be a good thing and it will improve the quality of the league.