Transformers Dark of the Moon: A movie rant Saturday, Jul 2 2011 

I would like to start off with a positive and informative note.  Accordingly to my little knowledge and research on film making, a director is essentially the main person who oversees the tone, direction, pace, and artistic control of a film.  They basically have the final say on what goes on in the production of a film.  There are exceptions of course.  However, based on his own words and behind-the-scene footage, Michael Bay is a director who takes firm control and authority on his set.  He invests himself emotionally in his works.  In abstract and broad strokes, these are characteristics can certainly be to a director’s advantage and help make a great movie.

That being said, Michael Bay seems to take those characteristics to the negative end of the spectrum.  I have read that Michael Bay did not want to make the movie for 2011, but rather 2012.  And it kinda shows.  Not that it was underdeveloped or that it could have used more time or anything like that.  What I mean is that his contempt (for being pressured into making this movie for a time less of his choosing) clearly shows with moments tailor-made to purge the movie of anything likeable; not enjoyable, but likeable.  Although with his embittered directing, I do appreciate the complete lack of sequel-baiting in this movie.  Without spoiling much, one would have to get fairly creative to actually make a sequel for this movie.

This movie also reveals to me that I think Michael Bay is a lazy writer.  To be fair, he did not actually write the script; writing credits go to Ehren Kruger.  However, most directors (and I can only assume Mr. Bay does the same) make the final approvals of the scripts.  In other words, if the script sucks and the director doesn’t have it fixed, then it is their burden to bear as well.  How does it suck?  Well, it seems apparent that significant plot devices (let’s simply call them McGuffins for short, because they have that much meaning to Mr. Bay) from previous movies in the franchise have less meaning/importance in the following movies.  If anything, they have barely a passing purpose in the following movies.  Not sure what I mean, here are the examples:

-The first movie, the hunt is for the Cube (All-Spark).  It is what drives the plot forward.  In the second movie, what is left of it is used to bring characters back and make Shia LeBouf’s character “important” to the movie.
-In the second movie, the Matrix of Leadership is what the Autobots are searching for as it will help them in the end; which it does.  In this movie, it is relegated to bringing a character back from the dead (witnessing the start of a pattern here?) and not much else.  Its meaning and importance almost completely superfluous to the rest of the movie.

To me, this shows that the writers are clearly just making things work as they come, and not as effectively as others can.  What it shows about Michael is that he doesn’t understand how to make the material better than presented or that he didn’t even bother reading the script until it came to shooting.  I really want to point out a couple points of Bay’s incompetence by saying: he fails at science forever!  In the third act of the movie, BUILDINGS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!!  He is trying to make cool action sequences, but they do not bend at those angles unless they are designed to; and those buildings weren’t!
Yes, people can glide in those body suits, but nowhere near the accuracy or lift to which those troops were going at it.  Also, even gliding in those suits and getting tremendous speeds and distance with them, they are constantly falling; they do not fly *period*.
On a subtler and less angry note, Chernobyl is mentioned in the movie and was mentioned to be completely uninhabitable for 20,000 years.  To my limited knowledge and research on the matter, this is, in fact, incorrect.  Chernobyl is actually habitable with only some concern for radiation (namely if the protective measures fail), but background radiation (the concern cited in the movie) is not a factor.  I am not upset about this, because I can’t really back it up as much as I would prefer.

After the firing of Megan Fox from the movie (bloody good thing too), I had some theories as to why exactly Michael Bay hires certain nubile, physically attractive, and unknown actresses as leading roles in these movies.  I won’t state them here simply because I will not stake what credibility I have on making any potentially wildly libelous comments.  You can draw your own conclusions at home though ^_^
On the topic of women in media, the old school stories usually weren’t too kind to women.  They tended to be objects sought after, cruel manipulators, and otherwise worthless without men.  Not only do I feel that all of those apply in Bay’s movie, but also that he actually demeans male as well.  Sam, I feel, seems worthless and adrift without a girlfriend; like his life has no value if he can’t “pick up chicks.”  Sorry, but every person can be an island.  No one needs each other intrinsically.  We want each other, but do not need;  there is a HUGE difference.

On the topic of characters, why, oh why, do we need to have so many broadly written caricatures?  Why are some of these characters so blatantly one-note?  Can no one have definition beyond annoying f*&^%-tard?  Also, why are some characters even in the movie to begin with?  There are so many superfluous characters it is aggravating.  I do not get emotionally invested in some of these part-time and non-dimensional characters who contribute nothing to the story or the overall plot; they are there, because they were paid to be there.

I may not have walked out on it, but I got out as soon as I knew that I could without missing any additional footage.  I paid only $4 for this movie and I still feel like I paid too much.  My only solace: that I spent just as much supporting my favorite theater.

Review- Morton’s List: the End to Boredom Thursday, Apr 1 2010 

Genre: live-action adventure
Number of players: any number of players (recommended against exactly 13 players)
Objective: to complete a random activity with a group

It might be a decent starting point to explain what Morton’s List (or the List) isn’t and then explain what it is.  What Morton’s List isn’t, is a role-playing game or a live-action role-playing game.  Most gamers are not used to a game that actually has you the player do something in the real world beyond the game itself; in a weird way, Morton’s List is more analogous to a sport than most other games.  What Morton’s List is, is a game that opens up the world to the players as a place of endless adventure and possibilities.  The players run around having fun and adventure in the real world, as opposed to playing on a foldable cardboard surface or scribbling notes on paper chronicling the life and times of a fictional entity.

Morton’s List has a storied history of coincidence and bad press; which is not my intent here in my retelling of said history.  The company’s founding was back in 2001 on September 11th; so their 1-year and subsequent anniversaries were quite mixed and unfortunate due to the infamy of the day.  Anyways, the creators took their game out to the convention-scene and tried to market Morton’s List to the wider public.  After initially registering a few events at GenCon, the event coordinators decided to cancel the events on the creators and subsequently banned the game from the con!  Why? A few reasons were given in a letter that boil down to a misunderstanding of the precepts and expectations of the game.  To be perfectly blunt and honest, the letter is hilarious given the fact that the company in charge of GenCon, Wizards of the Coast, produces games like Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons, even back then.  Without getting into specifics of the letter, basically, the game was accused of “encouraging witchcraft and real-life spellcasting” and was not considered “family friendly;”  ironic since D&D has its own misunderstood history and Magic is almost blatant in its use of the occult and magic.  However, as I alluded to earlier, I am not speaking maliciously of Wizards or of Morton’s List; I just find the situation at the time frakking hilarious!

The intent of the game was to alleviate the endless boredom of indecision.  Imagine if you will the following situation:

Friend A: I’m bored!
Friend B: So am I! Well, what do you want to do?
Friend A: I don’t know.  What do you want to do?
Friend B: I don’t know . . .

Add in as many friends to that typcial conversation and you have the premise behind the List: to end boredom.  How is this accomplished?  First the group promises (the book says swears, just so you know) to put forth an honest hours effort to completing the task that the group generates from Morton’s List.  After that, a table master (basically a leader position) is randomly determined and then that person makes a series of D30 rolls to generate a quest result.  The group discusses how they will complete said quest and then they go about completing the quest.  Because of the variability within any given group, the randomness of dice results, and any number of real-world factors, the game has an infinite play-back potential; no two games of Morton’s List can be exactly alike.  So, in itself, you are probably never going to get bored playing the game.

What does Morton’s List teach us?  How to let go and just go with the flow of events as they unfold.  Also, unlike other games, this game puts you directly into the real-world and so you put your skills to practical use (technically speaking).  The book itself is filled with useful information and interesting facts.  In some entries, namely the incredibly hard to reach quests that will take longer than 1 hour to complete, there is a copious amount of information concerning cultural history and mythology.  Also, the game encourages the players to be active and not merely passively sitting around waiting for something to happen; the players shape the outcome of their game.  What players bring to the game is what they take out of it, and often more.  The game also enforces respect towards the views of others through the rules of abiding by one’s moral codes; basically, no one can force you to do something that you don’t want to do and likewise you can’t force anybody to do something that they find taboo.  To be honest, I can probably keep going with an ever increasing list of what players learn through the game, but I am getting kinda tired and I will just leave it up for discussion.

And just to make it clear, nothing I say is beyond reproach or to be taken as some form of gospil truth and indisputable.  if anything, I prefer it to be disputable because without discourse, we really can’t learn anything beyond what is already said.  So, as always, feel free to comment on this or any other post I make/made.

Next time: I am not really sure.  I will come up with something soon . . . hopefully.

Review- Monsterpocalypse Thursday, Mar 18 2010 

Genre: miniature, collectable
Number of players: 2
Objective: to destroy your opponent’s monster(s) in both forms

A little confession: I love monster movies.  Even when they are dumb with cheesy special effects and story lines used to induce vomiting to prevent choking, they are still awesome for me to watch.  Why?  Honestly, its cause I enjoy the rampage and wanton destruction.  Yeah, I admit to enjoy violent media; I don’t act on it, just watch it.  Other than that, I do enjoy the creative designs for the monsters; the actual execution of said giant critters is another thing.
Another, bigger confession: I love Privateer Press.  This company enjoys taking risks with their games and succeed at making their games bigger and badder than many other games.  Also, they design their games with the intention of giving the active/aggressive player the advantage.  This goes against other games where being passive/defensive is a more optimal strategy.  With Privateer, it encourages you to actually play the game and not just sit back and wait out your opponents.

With those two admittances in mind, let’s get into Monsterpocalypse!
After the success of their two major miniature lines (WARMACHINE and HORDES), Privateer decided to try something new; in their own words: The Next Big Thing.  And that was Monsterpocalypse, a collectible miniature game based around kaiju, or monster movie genre.  Currently, there are 4 released sets, one soon to be released, and 12 different factions to play, each representing one of six agendas (think alignment from DnD); and each is guaranteed to hearken to either a classic monster movie or to other famous monsters from popular culture or anime.

Each player controls at least one monster, a number of units, and fields a number of buildings on a battle map; each of which is a different model type.  Models are moved on the battle map by spending Action dice (A-dice); naturally, buildings don’t move . . . yet.  A-dice can also be used to initiate attacks and perform actions.  When A-dice are spent they go from one pool (starting in the Unit) to the other (the Monster Dice Pool); this means that players typically will alternate activating units and monsters between turns.  Units function as a means to gather Power dice (P-dice) which the monster can use to bolster their attacks, make a special type of attack (Power Attack) that is limited to monsters only, or allow a monster to transform into a more powerful form: their Hyper Form.  Units gather P-dice by securing buildings or strategic points on the map.  Game play continues until a monster is destroyed in both forms (Alpha a.k.a. starting form, and Hyper).  When building a force, units can be of any faction, but many units’ abilities function best when they are the same faction/agenda as their monster.  Oh, don’t worry about losing units during the course of the game; you can respawn them at spawn points on the map.  You have an infinite supply of the units at your disposal, but limited to the actual number of models you have . . . hopefully that made sense.

One obvious bit of education from the game is learning about pop culture, anime, and the kaiju movie genre.  As with most miniature games, you learn resource management via your units, except that you don’t have to worry about not being able to use those units once they die; you can respawn them.  Also, you learn to strategize via the way you construct your force; mostly utilizing the synergy between units and monsters or other units or between the buildings and the units/monsters in your force.  Also, you learn to coordinate your efforts between your units and your monster.  Finally, you need to get use to the symbols used to depict special abilities that models possess; some are logical, others intuitive, and others you just need to get use to.

Next time: Morton’s List-The End to Boredom

Review-Dominion: Seaside Tuesday, Mar 2 2010 

For details regarding genre, number of players, and objective see Dominion Review.

The latest expansion to Dominion, Seaside does break from the pattern of the previous two box sets.  While Seaside can be a stand alone game, just like Intrigue, it does not actually have the Treasure cards or the Victory cards needed for game play.  This means that you will have to use one of the other sets in order to play Seaside; either by itself or combined with another set.  I am not sure why the company decided to do this, although my suspicions are either: to keep production costs down (which doesn’t actually make sense as the game costs as much as the other sets) or to simply make more money because you need to buy two sets in order to play one.  This is the only problem I really see with the game, and that is just a marketing/production issue and not an actual mechanical problem.  So the game!

Before I get into exactly what Seaside adds, I need to go over an element I did not previously cover in either Intrigue or the base set.  I had mentioned that there are Action cards; what I neglected to mention the first time around is that there are two sub-types of Action cards: Reactions and Attacks.  Attack cards usually have a detrimental effect that takes place, but only works on other players.  Reactions are cards that, well, react to the actions of others.  In Dominion, the Moat is the basic Reaction wherein it prevents the effects of Attack cards.  With Intrigue, there are new Reactions and new Attacks; some of the Attacks have options (like many of the cards in the set) that are not necessarily “attacks.”
I mention this because in Seaside, we are introduced to a new type of Action subtype: Duration cards.  These are cards that affect your current and your next turn.  Also, Duration cards don’t actually go into your discard pile until your next turn; this is a very subtle aspect, but it is noteworthy in my opinion.  Duration cards allow for more long term benefits and strategies.

The other new change to the game is the introduction of realia (teacher-speak for props).  In this case, tokens and cut-outs to keep track of cumulative effects in the game.  From a production stand-point, these are of good quality; and maybe even useful in other games when needed.

So, as an expansion, Seaside adds the ability to not just plan ahead but to act ahead.  Your long term strategies do not have to be just in passive deck design and good shuffling.  Instead, you can actually manipulate your turns ahead of time; laying the foundation for a productive next turn.  When you get the right cards, not only do you make a good combination within a turn, but you can established a great combination of turns!

Next-time: Monsterpocalypse 

P.S.  I am still looking for suggestions/recommendations to future reviews.

Review: Dominion-Intrigue Wednesday, Feb 17 2010 

For details regarding genre, number of players, and objective see Dominion Review.

While Dominion provides great replay value, the creators have graced us with an expansion.  As indicative of an expansion, Dominon: Intrigue does add more rules for play.  However, unlike most expansions, the changes are much more subtle; not to say that all other expansions are over-the-top and very obvious.  The subtle change? A new card type: combination cards.  These cards are a combination of two other card types, the majority of which are Victory and Action cards; the Harem card is both a Treasure card and an Action card.  While this doesn’t seem big, it does add a great amount.  Now, you can be adding a new action card to your deck that not only gives you the immediate edge with new options, it also gives you victory points to help you win the game.

The other subtle change is the option of cards.  Yes, there are enough cards in Intrigue that you could play it by itself, but I’m refering to the actual abilities of the cards.  The overall theme of the new cards is that of option.  Most of the cards do not have a single set of bonuses or actions to perform.  Rather, most of these cards give you the choice of one bonus or another, or one action or another.  So, the cards give you a flexibility in tactics/strategy beyond their inherent abilities; a flexibility in actual execution.

Finally, as ham-handedly hinted at (yeah, illiteration), Dominion: Intrigue can be played on its own.  Not only can you play it without Dominion, but you can play it without having purchasing Dominion; all of the rules required for play are included with Intrigue.  So, in additional the number of options given by the flood of new cards, the actual ability to have options with many of the cards, but you also have the option of playing Intrigue alone or included with base Dominion.  My conclusion: Intrigue introduces exponentional options to the game and make it that much more interesting/complex without actually making the mechanics more complicated.

As an expansion, what does Intrigue offer in terms of the educational benefit of Dominion?  It reinforces the base lessons, but it also includes the concept of having choices and helps teach you how to decide which options to select.  It teaches you the strength of just having options, but it also helps you develop priorities.  After all, when confronted with an overabundance of options, you have to figure out some way to select one option over another; wherein your priorities need to be clear.

Next-time: Dominion-Seaside

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Movie Rant Saturday, Feb 13 2010 

This morning (2/12/2010) I caught the first showing of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: the Lightning Thief at my favorite cinema.  Because its the early show, I paid $4.00; my drink and snacks cost more than twice that.  I feel ripped off; I want my $4.00 back, preferably out of director Chris Columbus’s pocket.  Why?  Because the movie was pretty bloody bad that’s why!  Compared to the book, it was deplorable and outright insulting to the audience’s intelligence; on its own, it was just suck.

I had seen the teaser trailers for this movie and didn’t think much of it.  In fact, at first, I thought it was a teaser for the Marvel movie Thor, which wouldn’t be coming out till next year at the earliest; I figured if that was the case, than maybe it was part of a far-reaching marketing campaign, but I digress.  I decided to read the book (not a mistake, as I will explain later) and was very hyped to see it.  After I saw trailers that included elements that were not from the book, I was hesitant but adamant to give this movie its fair shake.  I have been known by many of my friends to have an open-mind, and I take pride in that (one of the few things that I do pride myself on).  However, one can only have an open-mind for so long.

So what makes this movie bad?  That needs two sets of responses: how its bad compared to the book and how it is bad on its own.

First the snobbish comparison of the book.  By the way, I am going to avoid as many spoilers as inhumanly possible as the book is so damn good that I want everyone reading this to read the book.  Anyways, the movie did not get the characters right in their personalities or some of their capabilities; certain characters were artificially combined into other characters and done so without a meaningful purpose or in a well executed manner.  While I FULLY understand the need to cut material out when translating a book into a movie, some vital bits of exposition and explaination are taken right out; while minor elements are over exaggerated and played off as major plot points.  The journey the characters take goes from being a great and fully developed attempt at a classical heroic myth set to the modern world, the movie makes it into a teenage road trip to collect items; GOTTA CATCH’EM ALL!  As with cutting some material out, losing some characters make sense as you won’t have the time to adequately develop them or their purpose isn’t as necessary to the immediate story being presented.  At the same time, WHY ADD POINTLESS CHARACTERS/ENCOUNTERS IN?!  If you wanted to add material from future books, wait for those movies to be made or just hint at them; don’t frakking include them.  I’m not even sure if the director actually had anybody read the book!  I think I could go on until I have an aneurysm, so I will move onto the secondary set of reasons: its just bad by itself.

By itself, the movie is only actually marginally bad; its no Manos: the Hands of Fate.  I must admit, I did not sit through the whole movie; I was pretty disgusted by most of its execution that I left about maybe a half-hour before the movie ended.  The pacing of the movie was far too rushed.  I remember Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (another Chris Columbus film) having an excellent and easy pace to it; you could follow it along and you were gripped by the characters and story enough to patiently follow as the story unfolded.  That being said, this movie moved like it was outrunning a crazed horror movie-esque serial killer.  In the movie, one of the characters is diagnosed with ADHD; by the writing/acting of the movie, they didn’t have ADHD, the movie did!  Some of the movie’s logic was flawed and inconsistent.  Also, due to explanations, some things go unexplained that NEED EXPLAINATION!  (By the way, as I would prefer for you to vote “no” to this movie by not watching it, I don’t care about spoiling the movie for you.)  At the start of the movie, Poseidon, god of the seas, god of horses and earthquakes, comes walking out of the water as a frakking giant (easily 40 or 50 feet tall) and in plain view of at least a single fisherman; and the fisherman just sorta shrugs it off.  Where are the newspaper reports reading, ‘GIANTS WALK AMONG US!’ or whatever?  Where is the sheer mortal terror of seeing something that unbelievable?  Now, in the book, there is an explanation as to why nothing happens and I would accept that explanation in the movie, provided an explanation was given.  Given the importance the role Percy plays in the movie and how important it is that he recieves training for his mighty task (suspension of disbelief turned on, at this point), why was no one paying enough attention to make sure he recieves his almighty important training?!  He just sneaks off after a single night with his wants-to-be-Harry Potter’s lackeys-entourage without so much as a red alert, a single sentry horn being blown, or even a chubby kid who plays by the rules going, “you can’t go out past curfew.”  Oh, a great moment of dumb is when Percy asks why the gods won’t physically visit any of them.  The Hermione responds that it is the law as set down by Zeus, lord of the gods.  Percy’s response?  “Well, that’s stupid!”  Yeah, I agree; what a frigging cop-out.  There is pretty bloody good explanation given in the book; why it wasn’t used, I don’t know; I’m not a director.  Here’s a bit of bad design: the Underworld.  Yeah, they go to Hell, and it is only mildly annoying.  Things seem kinda bad and what drama they try to attribute to it, isn’t done very well; whereas in the book, you get a sense of I-do-not-want-to-be-here.  By the way, I would spoil the names of the characters in the movie to you if they were the characters from the book and not Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  I think I have rambled/ranted about long enough.

Next time Mr. Columbus, read the book; not the Cliff Notes.

Review: Dominion Tuesday, Feb 2 2010 

Genre: card game
Number of players: 2-4
Objective: to construct a deck with the most victory points

In terms of card games, Dominion takes a rather interesting/innovating approach.  All card games have essentially the same steps to playing the game: buy the game/collect cards (in the case of collectible card games), build your deck, and then find someone to play against (who most likely has their own deck made).  In Dominion, the game actually stops at step one (picking up the game); the game play is the actual act of constructing your deck.  You construct your deck with three main types of cards: Treasure, Action, and Victory cards.  Treasure cards are your resources to purchasing other cards during the game.  The Action cards are your strategic tools to allow you options during your turn; you play an Action card to garner additional benefits (primarily, draw more cards, be able to play more action cards from your hand, and/or be able to acquire more cards in a single turn).  Finally, Victory cards are your way to win; when the game ends, you tally your victory points on your Victory cards and whoever has the most wins.

The game play goes essentially thusly: play an Action card (when applicable) and follow its instructions, buy cards from the stockpile, and then draw your hand from your deck (reshuffling your discard pile if needed); play continues to the next player and so on.  One of the key elements of the game is the fact that you are continually cycling through your deck by drawing your cards and on your turn playing Action cards, many that allow you to draw additional cards; this allows you to cycle the new Action cards into your hand for use in your next turn.  By the way, to my knowledge this cyclical process is called ‘milling’ and it originates from Magic: the Gathering.  The game ends when one specific type of Victory card or three of the cards from the stock have been completely purchased.  Then, as mentioned a couple times, the player total their victory cards and see who wins.

With the Treasure cards, you learn a different kind of resource management.  Rather than learning how much to commit and balancing out the uses of your resources, you actually have to balance out how many resources you have in your deck to other cards.  Not only do you need to have a good ratio (so that on any given draw, you have Treasure cards to purchase more cards), but you need to also concern yourself with acquiring enough Victory cards so that in the end you can come out ahead.  And you are going to want to pick up Action cards because they allow you to get even more cards or help you mill through your deck or anything else that may help you win, or at least gain an edge over your opponents.  Finally, you need to also construct your deck with Action cards in order to properly gain enough cards to trounce your opponent.  It does end up being a repetitive process, but it is enjoyable, I assure you.

Next time: Dominion-Intrigue (Surprise!! This is a three-part review!)

Review: Kingsburg Friday, Dec 11 2009 

Genre: board game
Number of players: 2-5
Objective: earn the most victory points by the end of the game

The design of Kingsburg is that of what have labeled as “Euro-games” (obviously short for European games).  What is a Euro-game, you might ask?  Euro-games are games wherein while the objective is still to win out over the other players, the actual means to that goal are not as straight forward.  For example, in Kingsburg, the interaction between players is very limited.  Some Euro-games actually do away with dice altogether.  In other Euro-games, players may have to actually trade or work with one another in order to accomplish victory!   As such, there is a decisive shift in thought from the classical us-vs-them or me-vs-the other players to a more cooperative style of play.  This is not to say that Euro-games lack any competition or drive; just that the players bring those to the game, the game does not impose those aspects.

With that little diatribe out of the way, let’s look at the game.  Rather than simply move about the board doing stuff, you (the player) are land-owners in a medieval world influencing the King’s advisors with your die results.  You can use individual die results to influence individual advisors or you can combine them in order to influence higher result advisors.  The limited interaction among the players mentioned above comes in the form of when an advisor is influenced, no one else can influence that advisor that turn.  Influencing advisors gives players various resources that they can, in turn, use to construct buildings on their lands in order to win the King’s favor (in the form of victory points).  Beyond smoozing advisors every turn, at the end of every year (round), the kingdom is invaded by hostile forces and the players must have troops in order to fend them off.  The King always sends an amount of troops to support the players, but some buildings grant a bonus amount to fighting off the impending hordes; in addition, some advisors bequeath troops.  After fives years, whoever has the most victory points wins.

The game of Kingsburg is designed around medieval royal court.  At the top is the King, with his Queen right beside him.  Below him are all of his courtly advisors, including the Court Jester.  A fantastic detail here is that this is fairly accurate to actual medieval court.  Dismissing the obviously fantastical elements (e.g. hordes of zombies), royal courts did have court Philosophers, Astronomers, and even Wizards; they didn’t always have magical powers, but they were still wizards.  As such, Kingsburg provides plenty of opportunity for historical lessons and explorations.  History aside, Kingsburg delves into resource management and risk management through the use of the dice.  Not only acting as a random element, the dice are being used as a resource for the players to utilize to further their goals.  Players also learn to plan out their moves ahead of time and how to adapt to unfavorable situations (e.g. dice results that mess up the overall or immediate plan).

Next Time: Recommended Readings

Review: Poker; Texas Hold’em Tuesday, Nov 24 2009 

Note: the following is meant to be informative and analytical.  This should not be misinterpreted as an endorsement for gambling or other illegal activities.

Genre: card game
Number of players: minimum of 2 players; typical sizes can vary
Objective: to beat the other players

The above objective sounds vague, because really that is what these games are about: to win against the other players; as simple as that.  How does one win in Poker/Texas Hold’em?  A number of ways exist.  The most obvious is to form the best hand possible, or at least have the best hand compared to the other players.  Other legal means to win is through psychology.  Understanding an opponent’s body language and other tells gives players an edge on how to best manipulate their opponents (e.g. force them to fold).

As implied, Poker and Texas Hold’em are games that best enforce learning about psychology and kinesthetic (body language).  Both allow for a player to gain the best edge over their opponents.  The game can teach one discipline as well.  Not only does one learn the body language of others, but one also learns to conceal their own body language; after all, one does not want to give away too much recklessly.  When playing with chips, one needs to learn how to best manage their resources in order to pace themselves or ensure that they can play as long as they intend.

Next time: Kingsburg.

Review: Chaos in the Old World Thursday, Oct 29 2009 

Genre: board game
Number of players: three to four players
Objective: to achieve victory through various means

Chaos in the Old World is a new game developed by the innovative game designers at Fantasy Flight Games (FFG); this is a completely original game created by FFG, rather than a redesign of an older edition.  The game is set in the Old World, the fantastical world created and expanded upon by Games Workshop.  It is a rich, albeit grim, foreboding, and gothic setting where war is constant, humanity is scattered and divided, monstrous creatures and demons ravage the world and its people.

In the game, the players take on the roles of the four Chaos gods: Khorne, god of slaughter and war; Tzeetch, god of time and magic; Nurgle, god of pestilence and disease; and Slaanesh, god of dark pleasures and pain.  Unlike most games where there is a single way to win the game, Chaos in the Old World provides several ways to win: players who reaches a victory point threshold first wins, when the Ruination deck runs out the god with the most victory points wins, and through dial advancement; each god has their own best way of achieving victory.  Also, unlike most other board games, there is the possibility that all the players could lose!  The mechanics for victory and general game play are highly interconnected, with strategy and tactics constantly taking shape as the game goes on.

This game encourages players to develop strategies fitting not only their own style, but also that of the style of their chosen gods; for example, a player could choose to rampage and attack all the other players, but only Khorne will truly claim victory through this strategy; likewise, simply spreading your influence to dominate the juiciest provinces can earn you enough victory points to win, but Nurgle is the king of putting figures out on the board for cheap.  Like a miniature game, Chaos in the Old World teaches the players to adapt to changing circumstance. . . or else!  Lastly, this game demands that players remain aware of their opponents.  If one of the players is left alone, that player swiftly gain the advantage needed to win the game.  The corollary to this lesson is that one should not focus exclusively on any one player for too long; this will narrow your vision to the other players enough for them to achieve victory.

Next Week:  Poker/Texas Hold’em

P.S.  apparently, by “later in the day” I meant Thursday.  Sorry for the delay.

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