December 13, 2011

Better Health Through Gaming - Week 5

Ugh last week was a long one, but I apparently survived. Mostly unscathed, at least if you don't count my almost utter lack of sleep. The company Christmas party went very well, and our performance seemed very well received. Now I just have to finish mixing three of five songs in less than four days. They're definitely not going to be my best work, but they should still sound pretty decent.

With all the craziness going on last week, I have finally missed some workouts. Both my Thursday and Saturday workouts were skipped entirely. This was a conscious choice by me. I simply didn't have the energy or desire to do them on those days. They are marked in my calendar to be made up. While all three make-ups likely won't happen this week, I think I might be able to slate one of them in.

Even with all of that stuff I still managed to lose a little weight. It's more likely due to my lack of sleeping than any food intake changes I made. But hell, I'll take it.

Workouts: 3 (actually 2, the game oddly counts fitness test as a workout)
Duration: 52 minutes
Calories Burned: 408
Average Heart Rate: 115 bpm
Max Heart Rate: 173 bpm
Distance: 0.85 miles

This week will be better.

December 05, 2011

Better Health Through Gaming - Week 4

Busy busy busy busy busy.

Work, practicing for a late-notice show with one band. Recording with another band (with a week less time than I was promised). Plus regular Christmas stuff and just trying to keep up with all the meetings I have to organize in addition to my normal job duties! Busy only barely starts to describe things.

So on that note; Monday night gaming is cancelled for this Monday and next. I just don't have the free after-work time to make it happen. Tonight I'll be doing drum cleanups and hopefully tracking bass parts if it all goes well. But you don't care about that, you're here to read about my pain and out-of-breathness.

Week 4 is finished and I've yet to miss a workout. The program thinks I did though. I made the mistake of starting a new program (9-Week on Easy) on the same day as finishing my first program. Since I marked Saturday as a workout day, it decided I'd missed that workout. I'll slip it in next Sunday I think, even though it's technically not correct.

Anyway, 4 weeks of exercise at 4 days per week is not a bad accomplishment. I just wish I were seeing more results. I know that I need to fix up my food timing and intake, so that'll be getting into the mix over the rest of December. It's not a matter of what you know, but what you do with that knowledge. So I guess it's up to me to keep things rolling.

Workouts: 4
Duration: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Calories Burned: 754
Average Heart Rate: 116 bpm
Max Heart Rate: 179 bpm
Distance: 1.44 miles

The average heart rate is still going down, so that's a good thing I think. I'm hoping for a decent weight loss before Christmas...time will tell there.

November 28, 2011

Better Health Through Gaming - Week 3

Another week is finished, and I am happy to say that I didn't miss a session for the entire three weeks of the Cardio Kick Start program on Easy. There were certainly a few exercises in the workouts that were not easy. There was one that I simply couldn't do at the end of my last session and I did have to skip it. One-leg hip bridges were beyond my ability that evening...especially at the end of my workout.

Here are the stats for week three!

Workouts: 4
Duration: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Calories Burned: 809
Average Heart Rate: 123 bpm
Max Heart Rate: 175 bpm
Distance: 0.94 miles

As you can see, I worked out a little bit longer and burnt more calories than last week. The distance was a little higher also, but I think the distance measurements in this case are weak relations at best. I don't really know how they're rating distance traveled when I'm actually running in place. However, I'll keep posting them up.

Over the three week program my weight went from 263lbs, down to 258lbs. That's a total of 5 pounds lost if you don't want to do the math yourself. While I consider this a definite positive result, I know that it can be improved upon. The simple truth is that I wasn't watching my food intake at ALL over this time period. There was still a lot of junk getting shovelled in. And you know what they say, "garbage in, garbage out."

Now that my kick start program is completed I'll be shifting over the 9-week fitness program. On the Easy setting, it is still a 4-day per week program. I don't know how long each session will be but I'll find out tonight. I'll also be taking some starting photos and measurements. If I do well enough in the program, I'll post them at the end, along with some after photos. Neither one will likely be pretty sights...let's aim for the after pics being less disturbing than the before photos.

Tune in next week!

November 21, 2011

Better Health Through Gaming - Week 2

Another week has passed and I still survive. The workouts this week have been a mixed bag. A few were easy, the last one was harder than I expected, but progress is being made. Here are the stats:

Workouts: 4
Duration: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Calories Burned: 684
Average Heart Rate: 119 bpm
Max Heart Rate: 173 bpm
Distance: 0.90 miles

So it would seem I'm either not working as hard as last week, or my heart is a little stronger. I'd be inclined toward the second option, as my recovery times after high exertion periods is a touch shorter. Don't get me wrong, I'm still winded and red-faced, just not for as long.

This week is the last one of the Cardio Kicks Start program on Easy. I'll be following it up with a 9-week program, also on Easy. Tune in next week for another update on my progress, and don't forget to let me know you stopped by!

November 14, 2011

Better Health Through Gaming - Week 1

Well I've survived my first week. In terms of commitment it actually was pretty easy. Four short workouts spread out over seven days. None of the workouts were longer than twenty five minutes in length. I will say that a few of the exercises, especially in the last workout, were harder than I expected on "easy" but I survived and here are the stats:

Workouts: 4
Duration: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Calories Burned: 580
Average Heart Rate: 121 bpm
Max Heart Rate: 183 bpm
Distance: 0.61 miles

As always, feel free to post comments on this or any of my posts!

November 09, 2011

The Best Game Company You've Never Heard Of

A few months back I was scouring the reviews over at BoardGameGeek to find some interesting new games to play. Something that caught my eye was a game entitled Omen: Reign of War. What finally cemented it for me was Drake's review over on his blog. It had been released a few months previously, but I couldn't find anything out about it from my local game shops. No one had heard of it. Turning my focus online I found that this small publisher's games are only available through their website So I took a (smallish) risk and ordered a copy.

When it arrived I found the packaging choice very interesting: they've chosen to use black plastic cases that look almost identical to old-style VHS cases, simply lacking the round knobby things that would keep the tape in place. Distinctive and fun choice.

Looking more closely at the game itself, it is a rather simple yet inspired design. Each of the unit cards in the game has multiple uses, so even if you can't afford to pay for the card, you can discard it to get more gold or more cards. In addition to great game play, the artwork is stunning all 'round.

With what I'd seen of Omen: Reign of War after two plays I decided to order the expansion, Omen: Shattered Aegis. I have yet to try the expansion, but it has more options for variant gameplay, tons of new cards, and even more standout artwork.

Another of their deluxe sized games was recently released. It's also a card game, but comes with more components than Omen. It's called Hemloch, and is designed by the same fellow that designed Omen, John Clowdus. You can certainly tell that it was by the same designer as it does have a similar style. However, it's also quite unique in the game play. While still technically an area control game, the method in which you go about things is vastly different, and the feel of the game is unique enough that you don't feel like you're playing the same game.

If there was one negative thing I had to say about Small Box Games it actually wouldn't be about their games at all. It would be about their shipping. Of the three items I've purchased from them, two of them have arrived with broken boxes. John was quick to reply to my emails personally, and sent me a replacement for the first broken case. I haven't bothered to notify them about the second because it's a minor break of one corner which can be fixed with a touch of glue. It is frustrating though, and I can see people being upset about receiving damaged goods. A simple fix for this would be a small investment in bubble wrap.

So if you're looking for a unique game to add to your collection, try something from Small Box Games!

November 07, 2011

Better Health Through Gaming - Prologue

People are offended by stereotypes. But stereotypes exist for a reason...they're simply a distillation of a widely known fact. One example of said stereotypes would be that gamers are fat and lazy slobs. Trust me, I have seen many, many examples to support this particular stereotype. So in my experience, it is a fact. Of course almost any generalization has exceptions to it. Unfortunately at this point, I am not one of those exceptions.

About 10 years ago I had to undergo shoulder surgery, and following that, spent several months rebuilding all the muscle and mobility I had lost. Once I reached an equilibrium again, I decided to continue in my journey and make fitness a regular part of my life. A few years later I was a lean 179 pounds, 6% body fat and was training anywhere between 6 to 10 times per week. I was busy with training and all my other tasks in life, but I was fit and happy with myself.

Do I sound vain yet?

When I moved overseas I found it difficult to keep to a regular training schedule and diet. My work hours were strange, money was tight so I couldn't afford to go to a gym, and slowly mild depression set it. With it, came weight gain and loss of fitness.

Coming back home a few years later, I was a little heavier, but not seriously so. However, the rediscovery of all the things I'd missed while away that were not my family and friends, amounted to food and drink. The Japanese make many fine beers. Their pizza and nachos...not so much. A few months of binging turned into loose habits. I have had brief periods of less-unhealthy existence, but generally only for a few months at a time. The bad habits kept winning the battle. Building good habits is hard, and breaking bad habits is even harder!

So I find myself at a crossroads in life. As I age, I realize that my metabolism is no longer on my side and those bad food and exercise habits show greater and greater effects on my body and well being each year. My pants are also telling me that I'm a fat bastard. Being healthy is a much smoother road to being happy than drowning your sorrows in sour candies and cheese burgers. When you're active and eating well you feel better, have more energy, can thus do more things and perpetuate the cycle. But how do you do that when everything else you've tried has seemed to fail?

Simple, you turn to video games.

Well at least, that's the oh-so-brilliant plan! Consider this more of an experiment than anything. I'll be your friendly neighbourhood lab rat. You can be my unwilling spectators. Or willing, if you're into hearing about other people's pain and suffering. And really, who isn't!? If reality TV can find an audience, so can I! In all seriousness though, by posting things up here, I'm really just trying to find a way to keep myself honest and focused.

Over the next 12 weeks I am going to subject myself to assorted the pain and embarrassment of exercising, or not, and updating all you folks out there in the wide, wide world of web on my progress.

How am I going to track things? Yesterday I purchased a copy of EA Sports Active 2 for my Playstation 3. The game comes with three sensors: two that attach to the arms just below the elbow, and one on the right upper leg. I'll follow the exercise program as set out in the game, and update you all here on my weekly progress. The first program is a three-week "Cardio Kick Start." Following that I'll do one of the more advanced nine-week programs for my total of twelve.

At the end of it all I'll post up before and after photos, as well as statistics from my first and last workout, and assorted body measurements such as weight, BMI (body mass index), skin folds and all kinds of weird stuff. We'll see if you really can get into better shape from a video game.

Microscope, on!

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I've been really busy the past few weeks, but wanted to write up a quick message for Halloween!

We tried our "Devoured By Zombies" VS System event last week and, while still fun, it didn't work as well as I'd hoped. I think my rules were a little too stringent, which made it pretty difficult to actually have a playable deck AND be able to eat your opponent's characters.

I think allowing recovery effects would be fine, but I'm still not sure about having 'can not be stunned' legal in that format. Putting devoured characters into play late in the game also seemed a risky proposition. Especially if you were dealing with small characters like one- and two-drops into turn six and seven. It just didn't capture the zombie horde feeling I was looking for.

One disappointment that I had was that no one really tried to build anything Halloween-themed except for me. Granted, the characters available to Underworld are not the greatest, I still had fun putting together a vampires & monsters deck.

Tonight is Halloween, so we'll be playing a game of Betrayal at House on the Hill. I'm really looking forward to that. I hope everyone has safe and happy haunting this evening!

October 20, 2011

Initial Thoughts on Rocksmith (PS3)

As a precursor, I loathe games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. My friends that do like them assume that since I'm a musician I'll be good at these games. In terms of playing the crappy plastic drums, those I can manage, but still think they're pretty silly, not to mention extremely uncomfortable to sit at. The singing at least is still sort of like karaoke. But when I got handed a little plastic guitar w/ buttons on it because, "hey you know how to play this song!" and subsequently had to try pushing buttons in the wrong place on the fretboard I was immediately turned off. "This is NOT a game for musicians," I thought to myself.

Enter Rocksmith. I hadn't heard about this game (for xbox and ps3) at all, but had it pointed out to me by my girlfriend in a flyer a few days before its release. About a year and a half ago I bought her a guitar, amp along with a book / DVD for beginners. I even spent some time in the first few months showing her basic techniques, how to hold the guitar, pick and basic strumming. She had always wanted to learn, or so she said. Of course, learning something like guitar is hard. Really hard. Especially when you have ZERO background in music, notation, theory or anything like that. You also need to actually want to learn how to do it. Now the guitar and all the trappings sit in her office, collecting dust, except when I am over there and decide to grab it for five, or fifty, minutes while I'm waiting for her to do her hair (or something).

So of course, something like Rocksmith appealed to her. It's not really a game per se, but rather a learning tool wrapped up to look like a game. Maybe making the practicing part a little bit more fun would encourage her to practice more than...once every two months.

For a little personal background: I'm a bass player. I've played bass in rock and metal bands for almost 20 years off and on. Currently, I practice with the band regularly, and intermittently at home. I'll freely admit that I don't practice bass a lot at home unless I'm learning a new cover tune. As such, I'm a solid bassist, but wouldn't call myself anything beyond adequate. I'm not flashy and you won't see me belting out any Les Claypool (Primus) or Billy Gould (Faith No More) bass lines.

Naturally, I own several guitars as well. I don't know many bass players who don't own at least one guitar in addition to their basses. The same can not be said for most guitarists. In fact, I know several who don't own a bass, and almost as many guitarists who've actually never even tried playing one. It's actually quite interesting to see one of these guys strap on a bass and expect to be good at it. Sometimes they are, but quite often it's more on the humorous side as they discover just how far apart the frets really are, and how heavy those damn strings are compared to those tiny guitar strings.

Anyway, back to my point (did I have one?). Right, that Rocksmith game. I did a bunch of reading, watched some promo videos from the manufacturer's site, and finally decided I'd give it a try and picked up a copy. When I got it home I grabbed my favorite electric guitar and hooked up the USB-to-1/4" cable to my PS3. Here are some thoughts on things after a few hours with the game:

+ The instructions for getting started holding your guitar and playing are good, but I did end up skipping through a lot of them simply because they're not targeted at me, but at the beginner.
+ The song selection is better than I expected once I got into playing through the "Rockstar Recommends" items.
+ The dynamic difficulty feature is really smart and usually gives you just enough new stuff not to make you annoyed.
+ It IS pretty fun.

- Customizing your tones and selecting guitars in the game is a bit of a pain.
- Playing through the theory exercises like bending and power chords more than once is annoying, because you have to go through the intro piece (or skip it)...which means you are waiting for it to load the exercise you just played.
- Occasionally it will throw an odd chord or a split chord at you when you've been playing only single notes. It doesn't show you how to play them and I haven't gone into the chord chart section for each song, but it can be a little frustrating to have them just thrown at you.

- The BIGGEST negative I found is that there is a little bit of lag between strumming a string and hearing the note. I haven't tried any of the suggested methods to fix this as of yet. It's enough to be troublesome, and I hope I can remedy it. If not, I'll have to take it back because it simply won't be usable long term.

Final Thoughts

I'm curious to see what kind of downloadable content they will come up with. I've heard that there are approximately 20 songs prepared as DLC, and that bass support will also be added that way. As a musician I can see value in playing through the game to improve my techniques and learn some new tunes. I'm really curious to see how many non-musicians, or people who want to learn guitar the game will encourage to stick to learning the guitar.

If it can actually encourage someone like my girl into playing a little more often, I'll consider it a successful game, but that remains to be seen...because she hasn't tried it yet.

October 14, 2011

Halloween VS Event Idea

Devoured by Zombies!!!

So how exactly do you capture the idea of zombies in a superhero card game? By turning things on their head and considering all of your opponent's characters as zombies, that's how! I hope this seems somewhat thematic for the Halloween event. If you have any suggestions or comments please submit them to me before the 21st of October. Here's the idea...

Rule 1:
All characters in play gain the keyword Devour. This keyword's text is, "If an opposing character stunned by this character this turn would leave play, instead remove it from the game. That character is considered devoured."

This keyword can not be removed by card or character effects. Opponent's cards removed from the game this way go in a pile on your side of the table.

Rule 2:
Once per turn, at the start of the combat phase, you may put the lowest-cost devoured character card into play. This does not cost any resource points. If you have two devoured characters that share the lowest cost, you may choose only ONE of these characters.

Rule 3:
No recovery effects, KO effects or can-not be stunned effects can be played. This would encompass things like the keyword Evade, Quick Kill and Legendary Battles.

October 12, 2011

Give thanks (for turkey and games)!

Recently I've been writing up sort of session notes combined with review thoughts into a collection of sentences. Well at least I think some of the strings of words might qualify as such. I'm still making ground after lamenting my lack of gaming, so that's been fun.

Thursday's VS System sealed constructed event was Marvel Legends / Marvel Knights. We had a good turnout of 6 players, including one new player! I do hope that we can maintain attendance of around that number. It makes for good match-ups and variety, as you're not playing against the same three people every week. The sealed decks that I saw were pretty interesting. Although mine wasn't particularly effective I was able to win a game. As we usually do with sealed games, we followed it up with a rare draft to give everyone a chance at the rares from the packs.

Saturday was my family's Thanksgiving dinner. This is the first time that I can recall ever having it on the Saturday. It's almost always on Sunday, but for whatever reason, this year my mom decided to change it up. I'm glad she didn't change the menu though. There aren't many things that can compare to a homemade turkey dinner with stuffing and gravy!

As a kid I played a lot of card games with my family, and the occasional board game. I remember learning to play cribbage from my grandmother before I had even started kindergarten. In fact, I can still play a pretty mean game of crib to this day. It is not high on my gaming list though, so I brought a couple of games with me to the house.

It was pretty interesting getting family folks to play board games out of their experience zone. Watching my sister tossing cards down during a game of Arena Maximus, desperately trying to cause damage to my uncle's chariot while she passed him was pretty funny. I won that game, but only just barely! Laarni and Laura were both within 1 tile of crossing the finish line before me and it was a tight race.

After dinner I hauled out Betrayal at House on the Hill, another recent addition to my collection. I've played it once already in a three player game; this time we had four people, including my mom. After exploring the house a little bit, all of the players except Laura were upstairs. As my luck would have it I found a weak spot in the floor and went crashing down to the basement. While I was digging around trying to find a way out, Laura stumbled upon a book and started acting a little funny.

A short while later the others found her in the chapel chanting in a strange language. Not wanting to see what was going to happen, the others pounced on her, and after a brief struggle were able to steal her book. Unable to complete her summoning ritual without it she gave chase! Another fight ensued and this time she lost...but the rest of us escaped the house with our lives and sanity intact.

You'd think that would be enough gaming, but not for a junkie like me. Even though my house is a mess amidst painting and renovations I was still able to ensure that the living room was clean enough to have folks over for regular Monday night gaming. We played what was probably the fastest game of Zombie Plague in history! Of course because there are dice involved, I ended up getting attacked, bitten and naturally...turned into a zombie. It was up to Scott and William to survive or escape. Which they did about 5 minutes later when Scott discovered the car keys in the trunk of the car. All I could do was shamble after the fading tail lights and wonder what their brains would have tasted like.

We capped the night off with a proper game of Sentinels of the Multiverse. The last time the three of us tried to play we were tight for time. This time we had ample space and time to play...but our valiant fight against Baron Blade ended in bitter defeat.

October 04, 2011

Fury of Dracula

I like horror games. Shocking, I know. The biggest issue with horror games isn't that they're scary and that people don't want to play them. The issue is that a lot of people think it's a little odd to play horror games at say...Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or at your birthday party. That makes Halloween a sort of horror gaming feast to the rest of the year's famine. With that in mind I scheduled nothing but horror board games for the entirety of October's events.

The first game played was a new game to my collection, but not a new game. The version of Fury of Dracula that I bought is produced by Fantasy Flight Games, but is actually a remake of an older game of the same name, produced by Games Workshop. I sort of have a love-hate relationship with Games Workshop, because I think they make great stuff but it's generally too expensive. I also have a lot of trouble finding people to play Warhammer 40k with that I don't greatly disklike, so that's always an issue too.

And...once again I'm off topic.

Where was I now...oh right! Fangs, capes, stakes, holy water and a merry chase for a bloodthirsty monster through 19th century Europe.

Regardless of how many players take part in the game, all four hunter characters must be used to track down Dracula. With four players this left one hunter to be shared around amongst our three hunter players, which proved a little odd.

Scott, joining us for a Monday session the first time, elected to play Dracula. Sebastien, William and I took the roles of hunters; Lord Godalming, Dr. Seward for Seb and Will respectively, with me playing Mina and keeping an eye on Van Helsing. We doled out all the cards and counter tokens, and Dracula made his first move.

Our first day started off with a stroke of luck, Lord Godalming hit upon an early clue and we were hot on Dracula's trail. Mina decided to take to the sea in hope of heading Dracula off to the north, while the men closed in from east, south and west. As the day waned they had started pushing the Count south towards the coast and the good Doctor was able to force a quick encounter. Taking some scratches himself seemed a small price to pay as night fell; Dr. Seward landed a lucky blow with a stake causing Dracula a grievous wound and forcing him to retreat.

With full dark upon us Lord Godalming continued to chase the Count down, his trusty dogs lending him courage. Another fight ensued, but Dracula's increased strength made for a much more evenly-matched encounter, or would have if Seb hadn't thrown things into disarray by tossing handfuls of garlic at the Count as he dove into the fray. Unable to fight effectively Dracula once again made his retreat.

Surrounded on all sides we fully expected Dracula to take to the sea, but Mina's arrival from her voyage allowed her to telegraph ahead and notify the port authorities to the Count's movements. Effectively hemmed in he was forced to take wolf form and move secretly around our group, but only a few cities away.

Mina and Van Helsing were both able to track Dracula, but once again he chose to make a getaway rather than stay and fight. As the second day turned to night, with the hunters still hot on his trail, a singular bat was seen flitting through the cold evening air. Dracula had escaped us!

Our game took a full three hours and we ended it with no definitive winner. It was our first play and none of us had played before so there was a LOT of flipping through the rule book. The game has very nice components and a strong attention to theme, but still lacking a truly strong sense of danger or horror for the heroes. I think it's much more intense for the Dracula player as he gets to listen to all of the players' plans and formulate his escape, or ambush!

I do feel that the game is a little bit "swingy" in that fortunes for one side or the other can change very rapidly. While this can be a good thing, it can also be frustrating and lead to players feeling like they haven't accomplished much. This is especially true after having tracked and cornered Dracula over a several turns, only to have him to somehow escape to ANY space on the board.

I think playing with a full complement of 5 players would work best, but perhaps 3 players (with hunter players controlling two hunters each) would work well too. I'm sure the next play of this game will be much more fun!

September 28, 2011

Call for VS Event Suggestions

Ok all you villains; I need your help! (Heroes just doesn't seem to be the right adjective for most of my readers, so you're stuck with what I give you...)
Most of the time when I'm putting together the upcoming list of event formats I simply try to think of what formats might be fun, and that we haven't played for a while. However this month I thought I'd try something different. I want you to help me chose the format for not one, but TWO of this month's events.

For the October 13th tournament, submit a comment on this blogpost with your top two suggestions from the format list. The format with the most suggestions submitted before October 7th will be the winner. A list of the formats can be found here.

With Halloween coming up I wanted to try something with a horror or undead theme. I'm uncertain what this could be or how we can apply it to a VS System event. Here's a simple example idea: each player must build a BYOTT deck that features Underworld as one of their teams. Post your suggestions for a Halloween themed VS event by October 20th. At the October 27th event I'll provide some prizes for the following categories:

- Most interesting, on-theme deck (voted on by the players)
- Winner of the tournament (decided by your own skill)
- Person who comes up with the theme we use (entirely up to my discretion)

One last thing: Even if you're from far, far away (like...Zimbabwe kind of far) don't feel like you can't make suggestions for us to use. I'm really looking forward to seeing and hearing what everyone comes up with!

September 27, 2011

Ever Wanted to Know How Resilient Your iPhone Is?

The short answer: very.

After a 15 minute trip to the Apple Store I had a new back plate installed and I was on my way. The third photo above was taken before I had the replacement plate put on. The phone worked like nothing at all had happened, and continues to do so.

Just a little note however, I don't recommend trying this at home.

Games and Culture

Well over the past week I was able to make up some more ground in the "play some games" category. Our regular Thursday night VS System event was lightly attended, but everyone had a deck built for the format. That's rather unusual lately so I was happy to see it. More than that though, I was happy to play with one of my personal favorite decks: JSA w/ Lobo. There's an earlier article about the deck and how it works here, so I won't go into the details of it. It was originally built for this format, and modified to work in Golden Age play with the addition of a team-up card. Of course I was playing without that, and was very happy to not only get Lobo out on the table each game, but actually trigger his text in one of them. Granted it's a turn six or seven win, but it's fun and does what it's supposed to do quite well.

We followed up the VS games with a test run of Sentinels of the Multiverse. WIlliam had already played the previous week, but Scott and Anthony wanted to join in too. As we were a little pressed for time I opted to play the villain and environment card for them and walk them through the game steps for the first few rounds. The team started things off a little shaky, but pulled together nicely after the second Kraken appeared!
Time did run out for us though and we weren't able to finish the game before the shop started to close up.

Saturday I wasn't expecting to get any gaming in. After doing some last-minute shopping I headed off to my nephew's birthday party. The little guy is now a hyper-active three year old and as such is a great amount of fun. Lots of pictures, lots of laughing. After he tuckered himself out I headed back home and met a few folks for dinner.

Now, generally Laarni has next to no interest in board games but on occasion will surprise me by suggesting we play one. That's what happened on Saturday evening and we ended up playing a two-player game of Touch of Evil vs. the Vampire! Our characters were quite weak so we decided to team up against the villain and make a go of it. After collecting some tomes and weapons, as well as a few extra health space we hunted him down. Of course we'd never fought a vampire before so we had no idea that he had a crazy mist form and could become all but impossible to hit! Luckily my partner was packing some holy water and kept tossing it into the monster's eye each time he attacked us.

I'll have to say that the finish of this game was a little dissatisfying. The way the vampire's mist-form is worded, it sounds like he is impossible to hit at all. However, after we melted his un-dead behind with holy water, I looked up the rules online. Apparently he still gets hit like normal, but gets a sort of saving throw for each of those hits. Hopefully I'll remember that the next time we play him!

On Sunday we spent the day off getting cultured at the local museum. There was a film costume exhibit on display, and I finally had a chance to check out the Warriors display that opened up a few years ago. Actually, I suppose we got a double dose of culture last week! The first production by Vertigo Theatre has begun and I bought season tickets again. The play was really tense and thoroughly enjoyable, as always.

Monday's game night was good but I'm a little disappointed by the lack of interest so far. This is the second week in a row that I've been unable to garner a group of players big enough to play a three player game. If I've ever invited you to play games on a Monday, don't feel like it's a one-time invitation. The schedule is up here on the blog, although we don't exactly stick to it! Just give me a call or a text or an email and let me know if you're interested in coming out. I'll be more than happy to make a chair available should there be space. And lately we've not been lacking for space!

Both of the games on the schedule for this week are better multiplayer so we ended up shelving them. Instead we played A Game of Thrones LCG using only the core set decks. Our game was House Stark vs House Targaryen. This is only the second time either of us has played with these cards, but we each started out with very strong board presence and a lot of cards in our hands. It went quite long because neither player could garner a distinct early advantage. Finally after seven full turns my Targaryen forces started to pull ahead with the repeated assistance of Khal Drogo. By that point though we'd had enough and House Stark surrendered.

After playing a second game with the core set I'm inclined to say that I actually prefer AGoT LCG as a multiplayer game. We'll have to rope another player or two into it and see if my initial thoughts waver or not.

Finally we played a game of Magic: The Gathering. William wanted to try his newly-purchased pre-constructed Foil Sliver deck. I grabbed the first deck in line out my deck box; a Red-Blue Budget Burn. My deck has no rares in it at all. I should have taken a mulligan right at the start, as I only had one land in my hand. However, I had a few red creatures and two copies of Lightning Bolt, so I decided to hold on. The result was a game that took way longer than it should have. By the time I got some Islands out William's mana pool was huge. I locked down some of his slivers with Narcolepsy, but couldn't make the swing back from 3 life.

Magic is one of those games that I do enjoy, but don't want to play that often. I will really only play in small groups of casual players. I'm not competitive enough, nor interested enough in following and purchasing each set, to want to play in tournaments.

I had planned a brief rant to cap off this entry, but I'll keep it for another day; I'd rather end on a positive note. And of course, I invite people to leave their comments, feedback, suggestions or complaints on this or any other entry on my blog.

Happy Tuesday!

September 20, 2011

Super Heroic Gaming - Sentinels of the Multiverse

Last week I was lamenting my lack of game-playing time and dropped a list of games out that I was eagerly awaiting in the mail. Several of them arrived yesterday, so I have a pile of games on the table still in their shiny new shrink wrap. On Friday my copy of Sentinels of the Universe arrived as well, so I made sure to pick up some various coloured ten-sided dice and some clear sleeves before Monday's regular gaming night.

Not wanting to force my hopes on anyone I simply set the pile of new games, including the two games that were on the schedule, on the table. After a little "how've things been?" catching up, and the first part of a beer of course, William decided the Sentinels looked pretty interesting and that we should give it a try.

So try we did.

In fact, the unheard of happened. We actually played the same game more than once in the same evening. The game was so much fun that we played three games of it! However, the villains proved more than we bargained for in all but the first game.

Game 1: The Wraith and Fanatic vs. Baron Blade

Having heard that two single players with single heroes each was a difficult climb, we decided to use a modification that had been suggested: each hero player got to take two turns per round. While this was fun, the match up didn't seem much of a challenge and Baron Blade took a pretty severe beating in Megalopolis.

Game 2: Tachyon and Legacy vs. Citizen Dawn

"Let's play by the actual rules!" I suggested. Dumb, dumb, dumb. The Citizens protected Citizen Dawn with a vengeance, dealing out over 12 total damage to our valiant heroes before they even got to play a single card or power! It was an uphill fight, against the ever-growing Citizen army while being harried by velociraptors and T-rexes on all sides. In the end the heroes fell, having not even scratched Citizen Dawn. She gloated over their broken corpses in triumph. Ouch.

Game 3: Absolute Zero and Ra vs. Omnitron

"We need to play one of the easier villains again," I suggested. William simply rolled his eyes and shuffled the cards for the Wagner Mars Base. Omnitron started out with shields and some minions that forced us to alternate fire and cold damage, then started taking over the station itself! The heroes found themselves up against a self destruction sequence and leaking environments. With no oxygen to fuel his flames, Ra's powers started to fizzle out. Unable to stop the countdown, the base exploded and every one died.

Except for me!

Well, my character died. I didn't. If I had, you wouldn't be reading this now. At least we saved the Earth from being destroyed by Baron Blade's terralunar whatchamacallit.

Sentinels of the Multiverse is a simple game that is a LOT of fun. But it's stoooopid hard with only two players. We're both looking forward to trying it again, hopefully with some more allies to back us up!

The Thursday evening session this week should be awesome. Not only are we playing a great format for our VS System event (Special Guest-Star if you didn't read the schedule), but if time permits we'll also be able to fire up a game of Sentinels of the Universe! Oh yeah...

September 15, 2011

No, I'm Not Drunk Today

My schedule, not to mention my general existence, throughout September has been filled with challenges. Many of these have been beyond my control and caused untold levels of personal frustration, but in reality I suppose things aren't all that bad when compared to other folks who don't have money for food, or for a place to live, or games. Those poor bastards who can't afford games are truly in a sad and pathetic place in life aren't they?

Anyway, my personal steaming pile of annoyances aside, if you have somehow found yourself reading my blog for the first time you might be shocked to find out that I love games. For anyone else, it's not news, just annoyingly repetitive. But hey, I'm not holding your eyes open and making you read this, so shut it.

As much as I love playing games, I really haven't had a lot of opportunity to actually PLAY any this month. I've missed one of the two VS System events so far, and will miss tonight's as well. The one I did attend was a sealed event where we had an uneven number. Rather than making folks that paid for cards to play in a sealed sit out, I opted not to play so that they could do so. See, even though you think I'm a prick, I'm actually a very caring individual...provided I don't dislike you. In that case, lock your doors or better yet, just move to someplace I can't find you. But remember, I will find you.

So then, since I haven't been able to play any games recently I apparently decided that I needed to buy more of them that I also won't have much opportunity to play. And just in case you'd forgotten, there are (at my last count) two games that I recently added to my pile o' games that have yet to be played, and probably another four to six that have only been played once.

I've filled my spare time by ogling game reviews, component breakdowns, video reports and generally being even more nerdy than I'm used to, simply to maintain my tenuous grip on sanity. Anyone else will tell you I lost my last hold on that long ago, but they're just jealous of how awesome I am and that I provide so much entertainment to the masses with my wit, generosity and good looks. Ok, maybe not good looks, but whatever. Just go with it, I'm writing here...!

Out of the massive "wow I'd love to buy that game even though I'll probably never talk anyone into playing it with me" list, I didn't do a great job of narrowing things down to a short list. There may have been logic and strategy behind the purchases over the past two weeks, but somehow I doubt it. Enough rambling, here's the damn list already:

- A Game of Thrones LCG core set, with the Kings of the Sea and Princes of the Sun expansions (all six major houses, even though I don't have 5 friends to play it with)
- Citadels (stab your friends in the face, in groups of 2 to 10!)
- Fury of Dracula (Halloween is coming. I had to order at least one horror game!)
- Minotaur Lords (I loved Scarab Lords and this uses the same system...)
- Omen: Reign of War and the Shattered Aegis Expansion (fantasy-based Greek warfare with cards = awesome I hope)
- Rush 'n Crush (Formula D is a stupid racing game...this has guns, bombs and turbo boosts so it must be better)
- Sentinels of the Multiverse (card-based superhero craziness)

EDIT: I've also been watching a startup game develop for the past few months. It's called Eaten By Zombies, and has been getting almost universally positive reviews. So I added that to the ordered list too. Have a look at a nicely detailed article about the game and how you can get a copy here.

I also ordered some promo cards for Dominion and Nightfall, as well and Thunderstone even though I don't own the game. They're for a friend who hasn't read the rules and we've never even played the game, but he bought it and I'm a nice guy, so yeah.

Go get yer own damn games...these ones are mine. But if you're nice (ie: bring me beer or willing women) I might let you play them.

August 30, 2011

A Post Without A Witty Title

We got an early start on Monday, as I was able to get most of the day off. Over the weekend I had picked up a copy of an older Fantasy Flight game from the Silver Line called Scarab Lords. The game is essentially a two-player battle game. Each player takes on the role of the ruler of a house in a fantasy-based Egyptian realm, bidding their minions and their gods to take supremacy and rule all.

I had looked the box over on the shelf several times before finally deciding to buy it; and I'm glad I did, because I think it's a lot of fun. The artwork is really nice and the components, while simple, are good quality and provide a great game in a small box. The decks at first seem a little unbalanced, with the blue deck appearing the weaker of the two. I did determine afterward that we had missed an important rule that allowed a player to essentially skip their turn, and for a discard, replenish their hand.

I also came up with a modification to the advanced rules that replace the deck-building aspect with a shared-deck idea. I was able to test out the following day and found that it works out very well. It does have the side effect of making the game a little bit longer, but it adds a nice way to avoid decking out the opponent so quickly, as well as adding some more chances for random swings in power.

After William arrived, with cold beer to compliment the pizza, we sat down to a three-player game of the Call of Cthulhu LCG. I had set up a sort of draft box using the core set and the two larger expansions "Secrets of Arkham" and "Order of the Silver Twilight". We each chose two factions, dealt out an equal number of cards from each, and added a few neutral cards to flesh them out. As the decks were composed entirely of one-off cards, it added to the randomness of play.

The game is overall a very good one, but it does fall down a little bit in terms of multi-player friendliness. It takes a little bit longer and tends to get a little lopsided. Sebastien suggested that it might play better with four players as opposed to three. William eventually pulled out a victory taking a third story card. Sebastien and I each had two but were simply unable to stop his final push. By the end we were getting a little tired of the game and started throwing strategy out the window in favor of big swings with all or most of our characters just to see what would happen.

The final game was William's newly arrived copy of Quarriors. Yes, you read that right. The game's name sounds like an explosive sneeze but it is actually pretty good. It's a sort of deck-building game with dice. The artwork has a fun cartoony type style, and it and the dice are very colourful. The first few rounds took a little while to get going because we were harassing William as he read through the rule book. A few beers and a long day turned almost everything into a joke at that point, so 'scoring with the dragon' took on a wholly inappropriate meaning beyond the regular game terms. I enjoyed the game though and would certainly be inclined to give it another try.

For VS System on Thursday we're playing a sealed constructed format which I'm also looking forward to. The format lends itself well to a nice, even playing field for all, and gives everyone a chance to make use of cards that you might not otherwise. I'm expecting to see some interesting stuff hit the table. It should be fun.

August 23, 2011

Countdown to the EVE of Nightfall

Yeah I admit it's a pretty contrived title, but I wanted to hit everything in there that's happened in the past week. The biggest thing has been my nutzo work schedule, which not only had me working late on Thursday, but for almost all of Sunday as well. That was a real shame because the weather here on Sunday was a gorgeous sunny day.

The format for Thursday's VS System tournament was Countdown, and I wish I could tell you who played what and how it went. However since I wasn't there, and no one has given me any details, all I can tell you is that cards were brought and games were played. I think.

Monday's scheduled game was EVE: Second Genesis. If you've played the online computer game you might have heard of it's CCG counterpart. The card game shares a lot of artwork from the computer game, and boasts some truly fantastic original art as well. The cards look great and I was looking forward to playing.

My anticipation was quickly dashed however. Within the first four or five turns, almost nothing happened and peace reigned in the galaxy. Sebastien's cartel started to build up a presence in the outer regions while William and I struggled to cobble together a few measly ships. When we finally did, we flew them around and generally avoided each other like children hiding behind a mother's skirts.

Finally I had a ship strong enough that I thought I could gain a minor victory and take control of an outer region in William's control. Issuing orders my ship went off in search of conquest. The orders I gave them however, were the wrong ones. Laser fire was exchanged, nothing happened and my ship withdrew in shame while Sebastien watched, or napped, I'm not sure.

A few rounds later I decided to try again and sent all of my might against Sebastien's unprotected home region. He had wealth, ships and power, but had unwisely left his starbase completely devoid of defenders. The cost for this mistake was his life, and his sanity, as he was forced to watch William and I struggle with the combat mechanics of this game for another half hour.

William set down to building more ships, faster than I could, flying in and doing a lot of pointing at cards. I pointed at cards too, we spent some time being confused by all the results of said pointing; and when the game was over we packed up all the cards and agreed that it sort of stunk.

EVE Second Genesis is slow to start, boring while it's not your turn, and the combat system really isn't any fun. The targeting system for applying battle damage isn't smooth and made our brains hurt even though the math was simple. I wanted to like it, and still think the cards are pretty awesome looking, but it's very unlikely we'll bother to play again.


Two out of three then? No, not another game of EVE, please! We tried out yet another new game recently added to my collection: Nightfall. Yep another deck building game. Cooperative games, and deck building games seem to be a major trend in gaming for the past few years...and I really can't complain because I happen to like both genres.

Nightfall appealed to me for two reasons. The first was the theme. It's set in an end-of-days-where-the-sun-has-burned-out-and-monsters-have-appeared world and players control legions of undead, zombies, humans and werewolves trying to destroy one another. The second appeal-factor was the nature of the game itself. In games such as Dominion and Ascension, while both very good games, the level of player interaction is low to non-existent. The whole goal of Nightfall is to chain cards together so that you can attack and destroy your opponents.

We were only able to play a single 2-player game and it was a bit of a runaway win on my part. William and I were both trying to figure out how to chain cards together in a useful manner and I got off to an early lead. I'm not certain that the game is entirely balanced for a two player game, but 3 or 4 should balance out very nicely. I'd definitely play it again.

The artwork on the cards is pretty spiffy too.

August 16, 2011

If The Zombies Don't Get You The Dragons Will

Last night's gaming session had a group of four, which is twice as big as last week. A 100% increase in attendance is pretty good I'd say. Before firing up our Warlord game, we decided to try out a print-and-play game I happened upon last week called Zombie Plague. The game has been around for over 10 years, and recently a member over on Board Game Geek posted up a very nicely done 10th Anniversary Edition. Since I like horror games (and who doesn't love zombies?) I thought I'd print things up and give it a go.

Since the game is electronically distributed for free, we needed some dice and pieces. I just happened to have a copy of Zombies!!! which suited us perfectly. There are three ways to win the game:

1. All of the search locations on the board must be searched by at least one player.
2. The house's windows and doors are all barricaded and the house is zombie free.
3. Someone finds the keys to the car, and all the (surviving) players get in the car.

Very early on in the game the survivors learned that the car was out of gas. One of them headed out to the garage to look for something useful while the others set about barricading the doors and windows of the house. As he made a quick escape to the side door of house he unfortunately drew the attention of several zombies, who slowly turned to follow.

Sheer weight of numbers started to pile up on several of the barricades and the three survivors had to make a fight of it in a very crowded living room. Jason's frying pan was heavy and difficult to aim, making it a poor choice of weapon for dispatching the undead. Seb's hatchet was sharp, but the short handle proved it difficult to land a killing blow. And William's teddy bear was simply helping him stay sane amidst the chaos.

Deciding that they simply couldn't secure the house, and seeing that they were drawing an ever-growing crowd the survivors decided to split up. After some tense outdoor moments and a few bites that proved harmless they were finally able to search everywhere of interest and make their escape alive, but just barely!

I think Zombie Plague is well designed, fun and tense. The more survivor players you have playing, the more zombies they'll attract. There are tons of mini-expansions available, as well as four maps (all nicely designed by BGG-member kwanchai) to play on. I intend to find a suitable box for it and add it to my collection. I'm sure it will get played again.


So where do the dragons come in you say? Well, the scheduled event was actually to play a few games of Warlord: Saga of the Storm. Jason had put together a Dragon Lord deck using Altus Darkheart, and wanted to test it out, so the rest of us formed up our armies and made ready for battle. Let's just say it was brief, bloody and extremely painful. By the end of the first turn there were three level 8 dragons on the field, in addition to the Dragon Lord. We basically scooped up our cards and conceded...none of our armies had characters that could contend with 23 and 25 defence characters. Especially not when they had 4 or 5 hit points each.

August 12, 2011

It's all a Trade-Off

For almost a year, I gave Magic the Gathering a try. I enjoyed the game, it is well designed, relatively fun, extremely well supported, and the players are plentiful. However, the trade-off in my eyes was twofold.

The first issue with the game was the general player population. I played in a few organized events at my local gaming shop, and generally speaking didn't have any fun. The players were far too competitive, and generally not that accommodating to the newer players. I certainly don't mind losing, because in any game someone has to lose in order for another to win; but good sportsmanship goes a long way there.

The second was the frequency of set releases. As a casual player I simply couldn't keep up with the number of new cards, their interactions and combinations. Having to at least be familiar with a new batch of cards every three months is simply too much work in my opinion; that being of a casual player.
So what the heck am I talking about here and why? Well, one of the by-products of MtG having such a high player base means that highly sought after cards can rise in value quite quickly, and quite high. A few months ago I found a Worldwake fat-pack in Walmart, and bought it. One of the money cards in the game is Jace the Mindsculptor, and I happened to get a copy. I was pretty happy about it, as it was the first Planeswalker I had obtained, and I had a blue deck that it should work well in. I was looking forward to trying it out, but as the months passed and people's schedules were in flux, I never ended up playing that I decided to trade it.
I was able to trade a single piece of cardboard for a full board game Shadows Over Camelot, and a deluxe expansion for Call of Cthulhu. So that single card, that went unused for months, turned into something much more valuable for me: games and cards I can actually be certain I'll use. I don't think that's a bad trade-off at all.
Oh, and I do still intend to play Magic on occasion too! I just won't be playing with Jace (who happens to be banned in standard play now anyway). :P

August 02, 2011

Monday Night Gaming

Starting next week I'll be hosting some semi-regular gaming sessions on Monday evenings on my kitchen table. The way it will work is simple. I'll post a schedule, similar to the VS one, but each week we'll play a different game. In addition to the date and game title, I'll list how many players can join the game. Simply let me know if you're coming by email or phone. When we reach the maximum number of players I'll mark the event as closed or something. Please try to give me a decent amount of notice, and not leave it until 5:30 the night of the game before deciding to there may not be enough room for you by then!

Some nights we may be able to play a few different games. The schedule will only have the main game listed to keep it concise. If you have a game that you want to bring or try out with a group feel free to post a comment on this thread, or contact me directly.

I'm not sure if I can host games every week of every month, as my schedule may not allow it. However, we'll give it a try and see how things go for now.

Games will start between 6:30 and 7pm. We'll likely try not to go past 10 or 10:30, so that everyone can get home and get some sleep before work the next day. If you want to bring snacks or drinks, please do so, but please try to take care of any garbage or mess you might create. Of course I will have a garbage can, recycling bin, glasses and water available...we are playing at my house after all.

Next week we'll be playing the Age of Conan strategy war game. It's marked as a 2-4 player game taking approximately 90 minutes to play. I expect it to take around two hours for our first play, as it's a new game and we haven't had a chance to try it yet. Sounds sort of like Risk, but with monsters, and lusty women, and magic...and Conan.

July 28, 2011

A Game of Thrones (or "Why I Like LCGs")

Over the past few years, I've introduced several people to the Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer Invasion living card games. Afterwards a few of my friends asked me about A Game of Thrones as well. That game was actually the first one that Fantasy Flight Games transformed from a collectable card game, into a living card game (hence LCG).

Not having read the books, and assuming it was strictly a political game set in a fantasy setting, I hadn't really done much research into the A Game of Thrones LCG. Even when the TV series started showing on HBO, I still didn't really pay it much attention, even though it got good reviews and was mentioned to me by several people as something I might like. Part of the problem was my initial thought that it was a political drama type of thing, something along the lines of Battlestar Galactica. That show had been recommended to me several times as well, and the three or four times I tried to watch it, I sat there watching people talk and argue. "Where was the action, fighting, adventure and space battles that would make this interesting?" I wondered.

Truth be told I still haven't seen the TV show, but that is largely in part due to the fact that I no longer have cable TV. It's been almost a year since I cancelled my cable in favor of DVD sets and a Netflix account. I save a lot of money that way, but I digress. The sheer amount of times that A Game of Thrones had been mentioned to be over the past few months finally converged with my purchase of an e-reader device. Wanting to get a good value for my first purchase, I decided I would give the novels a try and bought a bundle including the first four books. At just over $15, I wouldn't have even been able to buy used copies at a book store for that cheap. I've recently finished the first novel, and it is a good story. Rather light on the fantasy elements, but engaging nonetheless, and I do intend to continue reading the series in the future.

Ok so that's a lot of text that doesn't even really address the game in the title. Before jumping in and simply buying the core set for A Game of Thrones LCG, I was actually able to try the game first! Collin has a core set and brought it by for William and I to test drive.

The game plays very well with multiplayer, and the three (of four) decks provided in the starter box seemed quite well balanced. William had some issues with drawing playable cards early, and Collin got off to a quick lead. Granted, it was his game and he had played a few times before. My deck generated a lot of coins that allowed me to play more cards in the late game...and on the seventh turn I was able to choose a title that protected me from Collin's attacks and push through both opponents for victory.

I think the game would play equally well with 2 or 4 players, and it is one of the few card games that shines in a multiplayer format. I certainly would recommend it to anyone who likes a deep game with lots of options, variation, and difficult choices to make. Do not play this game with casual gamers, or people you are trying to entice into playing more games with you. They will hate it, because it is complex and highly variable. It's simply too much to provide those people with a satisfying experience. For anyone who enjoys other card games and has a little experience with them, this is well suited.

The core set also seems highly playable directly from the box. This is a strength of the Living Card Game format, as both Call of Cthulhu and Warhammer Invasion are also fabulous games that stand on their own with just the core sets. If you are going to be the only one providing cards to your play group, I would actually recommend sticking with the core set, and perhaps adding in a deluxe expansion once in a while. Deck building is not a necessity, and in some cases I think actually makes the LCGs less fun.

As for me, I think I will be picking up a copy of the AGoT LCG core set at some point in my future. Even though one of my friends has a copy and I'm sure would be happy to bring it to our gaming nights, it's a good enough game that I'd like my own copy to have in the house!

July 15, 2011

Dark Avengers Assemble!

As I mentioned last week, we're playing with Marvel Factions this summer. I'd like to formally thank banstylejbo over at for putting this excellent set together. We were looking for a follow-up to the excellent DC Universe set, and this has definitely filled the bill so far!

Back to my original thread of thought...Dark Avengers. Why the hell would I want to try Dark Avengers, out of all the other teams available in Marvel Factions? The reason is actually two-fold. The first part of it is that I've always have a fascination with the mini-teams that most set designers have made appearances throughout years. Fearsome Five, Infinity Watch, Birds of Prey, Doom Patrol, and yes even the Purifiers have all made their way through the VS meat-grinder under my piloting. Some have been team-ups, others mono-team, but almost always fun.

The second part of the appeal about Dark Avengers was the premise itself. While I have not actually read the stories, I find it a pretty intriguing concept: villains taking on the roles, and in some cases even the identities of known heroes! The fact that they have a rather unique texting concept is just added cheese to the plot-twist pizza.

So here's the list I have after a few plays through with the team.

Dark Avengers Assemble!

4x Veronica Hand (1)
4x Marvel Boy <> Captain Marvel (2)
4x Karla Sofen <> Ms. Marvel (2)
4x Daken <> Wolverine (3)
4x Green Goblin <> Iron Patriot (3)
4x Bullseye <> Hawkeye (4)
4x Venom <> Spider-Man (4)
4x Ares (5)
4x Green Goblin <> Iron Patriot (6)
4x The Sentry (7)

2x Quinjet, Dark Ops
4x Heroic Mockery
4x Snack Time
4x The Monster Within
4x Lift Off!
2x In The Maw of Darkness

If you're at all familiar with the set, you may be asking why I didn't include the team-stamped location Stark's Gallery. In my first build I did have it and played a copy of it in my resource row during my second play-test game. However, when I flipped it over and read just exactly how restrictive the text was, I immediately decided to remove it.

The characters double as plot twists while in your resource row, but with the added requirement that they be KO'd when revealed. This means that you will usually be replacing them with cards from your hand, and as such you run the risk of emptying your hand quickly of both plot twists and playable characters. Stark's Armory only allows you one card draw per turn, and it must be triggered during a reveal effect. The added cost of also discarding a card for the effect is just not worth running it.

Seeing that the deck was decently ranged, but light on flight without a Green Goblin on the board, I decided to add in a play set of Lift Offs in place of the Stark's Armory. This card grants flight to a character for the turn and nets me a card without requiring a discard. I also swapped in two copies In The Maw of Madness for two of the Quinjets. The quinjets are good but with the addition of Lift Off, I didn't want to run the risk of making it unplayable. Maw is a nice removal effect that is very difficult to counter, because the card goes into the resource row. Unless they are a reservist, or your opponent has a way of KO-ing and returning it to their hand, it's gone.

In terms of the characters, it is a bit of a shame that they have no working text while on the board except for Victoria. Her text is extremely beneficial, but I did run two games where i didn't recruit her and things played out ok. As she's the only character with concealed, she can prove to be a big liability if you aren't careful about it.

And finally, if I were to really try to take things to another level I would seriously consider adding a different 3-drop in place of Green Goblin, and a much stronger 7-cost character as a finisher. The problem with removing 3-cost Goblin is that you then need a team up, which his text will help you find. Losing Daken for an off-team 3-drop doesn't seem like a great trade off as he is a good attacker. The Sentry's effect is not good enough to want to run a full four copies of in the off-chance you can actually fire it off.

I'd love to see a few more characters printed with the Dark Avengers team affiliation in a future set just to give them a few more options, but they were surprisingly fun to play and I will likely keep this deck around.

July 07, 2011

Iron Fist Legend (Heroes For Hire)

Throughout the month of June my schedule didn't exactly allow me a lot of time to join in the VS events. But of the five Thursdays packed into the month, I was able to attend two of them; and took full advantage of the chance to explore some of the cards in Marvel Factions a little bit deeper.

After playing our two-teams event early in the month I found myself leaning towards the Heroes For Hire over Marvel Defenders. Not that they had poor cards or stats by any means! The 4-cost Hulk and She-Hulk drops they have are very solid and performed very well. There just seemed to be something more in the Iron Fist / Luke Cage cards I had used that first event that needed further attention. So with that in mind I stripped out the Defenders cards and started working around this pair of characters.

First off, the 2-cost Iron Fist with substitute is a great card...just not on turn two. So I decided to make Paladin my first choice, as he ALSO has substitute. The ideal play for turns two and three are Paladin on two, Luke Cage on three, then subbing out Paladin for Iron Fist to give Luke Cage +2/+2 for the turn! My alternate 3-drop is Colleen Wing, but you really don't want to play her unless you have no choice. This could be looked at further, and maybe swapped out for Shang Chi.

Turn 4 is a tough one. There are some options for a 4-drop Iron Fist, and they're good choices, but I don't like the idea of ditching my 2 if it isn't necessary, especially when my 6-drop Iron Fist is the hoped-for finisher. The best choices are also off-team, so I ended up going with Misty Knight for her leadership text.

Turn 5 and 6 are obvious here. Luke Cage and Iron Fist respectively. If you are able to get even initiative and save a handful of your attack-boosting plot twists for here, it should be over in a hurry. Of course I'm a fan of insurance so I do pack a 7-drop for those instances.

The locations available to Heroes For Hire in MFA are very solid and they even have a search card for Iron Fist, so that's a definite must for inclusion. If I were to say anything about weak points there are two of them:

1) Most of the characters have no flight or range. There are a few characters that get bonuses for being in combat with other flightless & rangeless characters but it's tough to do, as they only have one card that can cause this to happen.

2) There are no team-stamped cards for boosting defence WHILE defending. While not a desperate concern based on the higher-than-normal stats, it can be an issue if your opponent is also playing an aggressive combat deck. It also happens that their attack-boosting cards are almost exclusive to "target attacker" you do have a point of weakness during each of your opponent's attack steps.

The weaknesses can be addressed with some options. I'd definitely consider a play set of New Mutations to give all of my characters flight and range. Some acrobatic dodges or nasty surprises, or similar effects, might also come in handy while defending. I'll definitely be considering some of these if I revisit the deck in the future.

We still have a few months before getting into the next set so I'm looking forward to digging deeper into the other teams before then. I think my next focus will be Dark Avengers.

Until next time!

June 07, 2011

Factions First Blood

Last Thursday's Marvel Factions event was great. It was disheartening to see that three of our regular players declined to attend, but the four of us who were there had a great time pitting our heroes and villains against one another.

Roy and Scott both followed the BYOTT format as laid out in the tournament rules with Defenders/Masters of Evil and Masters of Evil/New Warriors respectively. Anthony joined us with his Green Lantern/Anti-Matter offering and I played a Heroes For Hire/Defenders team-up.

We played three rounds so that everyone was able to play all the other attendees. My first game against Anthony went well in my favor, although some willpower defense boosts and hidden characters were looking troublesome. I was able to get a 5 and 6 turn Luke Cage / Iron First pairing out on the board that allowed me to get into the hidden area and have some beefy stats to work with. By the end of turn 6 things looked good and a short turn 7 cemented the victory.

My second game against Roy started out grimly with my initial board being very sparse, only recruiting a single two-drop until turn four. The balance started swinging back and forth at that point, and while the specific details have exited from my short-term memory, I recall a very tight final turn with me only barely edging out a victory. That game was a lot of fun due to the big control swings back and forth!

The final game against Scott was an interesting one. He had some troublesome exhaustion effects which not only prevented me from substituting characters into play, but also from attacking with some of my bigger drops. A few character powers and well-timed plot twists allowed me to over come this and attack up the curve with my smaller characters on turns 7 and 8. While Scott may disagree I think it was a solid game on both fronts. Had he one or two more exhaustion effects to play out I think the game would have shifted in his favour.

I don't usually win 3 games in a row, so it was a lot of fun for me. I trust it was fun for all the other players as well. Simply having some new cards to explore interactions with, either in-set or adding to existing decks will be a lot of fun. I sincerely hope that some of our other players will think so too and return to the fold as we enjoy Marvel Factions throughout the summer and into fall!

June 02, 2011

Updated Ages List

With Factions becoming legal for our group as of May 15th, 2011 I've revised the Age list. It can be found HERE.

May 21, 2011

Marvel Factions is ready to go!

Ok kiddies, here are the details for our first Marvel Factions-themed event, which will take place on June 2nd. The format is Bring Your Own Two Teams but...I've picked your teams for you! Remember that BYOTT means that you use teams of two different affiliations, and they are automatically teamed up. Additionally, ALL the character cards in your deck must have one of those two printed affiliations, and all other cards MUST reference one of those two affiliations in its text.

I selected the teams using random die rolls, and have made some allowances for players that do not possess full sets of Marvel Factions. Finally, you may ONLY use cards from Marvel Factions unless I've specified otherwise below. Here's the team list:

Anthony: Any two team affiliations
Charles: Heroes For Hire & Defenders
Collin: Excalibur & Asgardians (may substitute one team for a DCU team affiliation)
Jordan: Asgardians & New Warriors
Roy: Defenders & Masters of Evil (may substitute one team for a DCU team affiliation)
Scott: New Warriors & Masters of Evil
William: Dark Avengers & Excalibur

Collin and Roy, if you make a substitution from DCU...that team's cards can only be from the DCU set. No Infinite Crisis, Green Lantern etc... Also, can someone please let Anthony know the format if you see him next Thursday, as I'll not be attending (I'll probably be standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon watching the sun set).

Put on your deck building hats and let's see what you can do!

April 27, 2011

Printing Delay

The printing is underway but will not be complete in time for tomorrow's event. I will update as soon as I have a confirmed delivery date.

We will be playing DCU sealed (Free!) tomorrow to make up for the delay.

March 30, 2011

Another Canadian Election Approaches

WARNING: This article has nothing to do with games!

For the most part I'm not a person who is terribly interested in politics, but as I grow older I find myself paying more attention to where my money goes. This applies both to the money I spend of my own accord, as well as that which is involuntarily liberated from me by way of taxation.

The sad truth of the matter is that, locally, provincially and federally, I feel that the service I received for dollars rendered is very much lacking. I have written to my local MP on several occasions, and have never once received a response of any kind. Our provincial premier here in Alberta seems to live in an entirely different universe than those he has been elected to represent. Finally, our prime minister (as well as those who want his job) seem to be more interested in telling us how terrible their opponents are rather than actually doing anything to better the country.

As saddening as this entire situation is, these are the people that represent me, and all of Canada to the world. So perhaps some of the blame the lies with you and I. Canadians seem to have far too much apathy when it comes to being active in determining their political leadership. While we haven't had much reason to be interested (and it IS hard to be heard when Harper shuts down parliament for an extra month...), it's time to get interested and quick.

I'm tired of having things decided by minority governments who shouldn't be in power anyway, and I'm tired of being dictated to by supercilious idiots who aren't listening to what their citizens are asking of them. To all the politicians out there: start doing your fucking jobs and represent your constituents in an honest and earnest fashion.

And to all the rest of you: There's the old adage "if you don't vote, you can't bitch." So get off your ass, take an interest in your country, and come election time...go vote.

February 23, 2011

Bring Back VS System

Quoted from Facebook:

Squire Kershner - February 23, 2011 at 8:58am
Subject: Upper Deck is asking you for your input . . . so do it!

There have been several announcements from Upper Deck and members of their staff, that they are looking for input and guidance from the masses regarding a re-launch of VS. Members of the Council have been told, that if enough interest is shown on sites like, or enough comments/likes show up on the below pages, there is a significant likelihood that UD's new gaming division could be convinced to relaunch VS System.

If you care about this game, and would be as geeked as I would be, to see VS back in production, take a the time to "Like" and Post on the following two pages. Tell your friends and gaming pals. We CAN make a difference.


Bring Back Vs. System

February 01, 2011

"Learn-to-Play" Tournament Report

The Warlord "Learn-to-Play" tournament last Sunday was a lot of fun. We had 6 players come out to play; and were short another 2 due the lovely arctic cold snap we were enjoying over the weekend. Here is a list of players, factions and warlords that made appearances:

Alex: Yvaalis (Elf)
Charles: Yavlo (Deverenian)
Ed: Jorgun (Dwarf)
Jason: Krenthor Gouge (Nothrog)
Jordan: Rreg'jen (Nothrog)
Sebastian: Cathel Rowan (Elf)

After three rounds of fighting Jason and Sebastien were our two top commanders. Due to time, they were unable to play out for the win and made it a die-roll victory. After exerting a little of my mental power on the outcome (hey it could happen!) Sebastien was crowned victor of the event.

As the victor Sebastien extended a challenge to the Overlord "Drasek the Furious". Drasek was hungry though, and after only four rounds the entire elven army had been devoured in a shower of fire and blood. (A small bit of advice for anyone who is interested in challenging Drasek: multiple attacks per turn!)

The responses to the game was highly favorable by all the players who attended. In an effort to increase interest, I donated the decks used by the new players to keep. There was some older packs available at the store which all got purchased after the tournament, so I consider the event a great success!

If all goes well in the planning stages, our next event will be a Winter Campaign tournament. This would likely the be only Winter Campaign event being held in Canada, and the outcome of each of these can affect the course of the game in the future. For more details on the Winter Campaign please click here.

January 19, 2011

Warlord "Learn To Play" Tournament

On January 30th I will be hosting a Warlord introductory tournament at 2pm. People who are interested in learning the game are welcome to attend. I will provide decks for new players to use during the tournament. Of course returning players are also welcome to come out and play with their own decks as well!
There will be prize cards available to all participants (subject to the number of attendees). In addition to the promo cards check out the other great prizes I have planned!

1st Place: Receives the first TWO packs from the latest expansion City of Gold (APS #20 - The Storm Awakens and APS #21 - The Mummy).
2nd Place: Receives APS #16 - Tales of the Ruby Rogue

If attendance is six or more players, the players will also gain the right to challenge an Overlord. Overlords are the lowest tier of the Warlord challenge system. It is a high-level character who acts as warlord of their deck. They typically begin the game with special rules in play to them to make them even more powerful. The player who comes in first in the tournament gets to challenge the Overlord first; the second place player challenges the Overlord second, and so on. If a player defeats an Overlord, then the Overlord is theirs to keep. Once it is defeated any players who did not have a chance to challenge it do not get a chance.

Please contact me if you're interested in playing!