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Everything that sucks! And some things that don't.

Nuggets of wisdom amidst incoherent ramblings. You're welcome.

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Top Five Thursday: The "boring standard lists"-roundup, two-player edition

Christian Heckmann
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Here we are again, after some months of utter irreverence, I thought to myself that this week, I could continue on Top Five Thursday with something a bit more boring. So let's jump right back into the world of actually halfway useful Top Lists with...

Top Five Thursday: The "boring standards list"-roundup, two-player edition


So I've grabbed 25 games in total once more, divided them into five general categories and ranked them. What fun. This time, we're talking about games for two. Not games that are solely meant for two players but games that I do mostly enjoy in that format. The categories this time aren't as clear-cut as last time, so I might have to spare a few words to explain what I'm even talking about. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.


#5: Small-box games



That's a very superficial unifying indicator, sure, but it's one that holds certain cultural significance, I think. Kosmos pioneered their two-player-series in this very format and a lot of companies have followed suit, so when you see one of those small square boxes, you can be forgiven to assume that this is gonna be a two-player-only-game. Not all of them are. But here are five good ones:

#5: Perry Rhodan: Die kosmische Hanse. I don't play this one as often as I used to in the beginning of my hobby-boardgaming-days but I still like it a lot. It packs quite a lot of punch given its box-size and game-length. It's a pickup-and-deliver-game with cardplay and technologies and it's just plain fun.
#4: Targi. This one's a bit heavier than the box-size would lead you to believe. But it's a very clever game with some neat twists on the usual worker-placement-formula that makes it a lot tenser than other games in that genre when played with two.
#3: Jäger und Späher. Not available outside of Germany (yet), I'm afraid, but Gerhard Hecht's previous game was also a bit slow in that regard. Jäger und Späher is quite unique in how it combines its different mechanics, including a very neat way to simulate hunting and forraging. It also rewards clever plays while being pretty interactive. It's also a bit more complex and a longer game in general, but a very good one.
#2: 7 Wonders Duel. I don't like this game's predecessor. Mostly because I'm not that hot on closed simultaneous drafting. The two-player-version fares far better. There's multiple paths to victory, constant tension and some real interaction to be found here. Haven't tried the expansion yet, the base game alone has quite a few plays in it.
And #1: Welcome To.... Not a two-player-only-game but I think that it plays best this way (and probably with the expert variant). There's just so much to do, so many paths to follow or ignore in this game, so many crunchy decissions yet it plays so very quickly. It also looks quite good, is surprisingly thematic for a roll-&-write (or flip-&-write or whatever) game and is just very cathartic fun. If you like games where the objective is to build something, check this one out, it's a blast.


#4: Abstract games



Sure, there are abstract games for more than two players out there, but the two-player-format is the poster-child for this kind of game, with two people duking it out in a game stripped of most of its bling, just bare, clever mechanics teasing the players' brains. Well okay, designers have learned to at least paste a theme onto their games over time. And I like that quite a bit. Case in point...

#5: Ganz schön clever. Well okay, this one doesn't have a theme. How could it? It's a purely abstract roll-&-write-bonanza of track-comboing and dice-manipulation. It features its fair share of agonizing decissions and there's hardly anything as fulfilling a quadruple-combo. The lack of theme hurts it a bit, but it's really cool.
#4: Azul. Very pretty game (although the theme is hardly there) that can be played quite relaxed or very cutthroat. I like the Sudoku-style logical puzzle at the heart of the tile-placement, which is why I normally like to play it with the blank side, but it's fine either way. Haven't played it with more than two but I think that it would lose something.
#3: Onitama. Another one of those games that is so intuitive and painfully clever that you have to wonder why no one invented it sooner. I don't know if I'm good at it, I've won quite a few games of this but it has mostly been down to moving random pieces around until you see that one move that can't be countered anymore. Still, nice components and quick enough that I don't mind the general abstractedness.
#2: Santorini. I play that one pretty much the same as I play Onitama: do some random moves until something like a coherent strategy emerges from the chaos. It works most of the time. The core gameplay is just so very easy and the special powers are absolutely bonkers for the most part. Really cool game.
#1: Neuroshima Hex. I haven't been playing this one as much as I once did but it still holds a very special place in my heart. On the one hand it is a very thinky game, on the other it plays so well that I really don't mind. The factions are incredibly diverse and fun, the core gameplay is very cool, the theme works for the most part, it may be prone to luck from time to time and it doesn't really work with more than two but it is a great game in general.


#3: Card duelling games



This one was a surprisingly tough list to make, because while I like duelling-games in theory, I haven't played that many to begin with and was less than impressed by most of 'em in practice. But there are some good ones. Oh, the overarching theme of those is direct conflict with players attacking their opponent's health pool or something like that.

#5: Epic PVP: Fantasy. I always thought that this so-called "shufflebuilding" mechanic was a cool idea but hadn't found a game to implement it well yet. Epic PVP: Fantasy isn't perfect either, it can be quite lucky and the card-decks you shuffle together don't feel that distinct, but it's a quick, fun romp with some very cool mechanisms, like the drawing from your aggro-pile and the "defense becomes attack"-thing. It's also incredibly quick. I like it.
#4: Invaders. This one has never gotten the attention that it deserved but I like it quite a bit. The theme is neat, the artwork is very cool, pretty much all of the cards in the game feel overpowered but that way they balance each other out quite nicely. Haven't gotten my hands on the expansion yet, perhaps I should do so because I was pretty surprised (in a positive way) that this game wasn't dead on arrival.
#3: Puzzle Strike (Third Edition). Yeah yeah, those aren't cards, they are chips. Big deal. Could have been cards just the same. The latest incarnation of David Sirlin's bag-builder is a very fun game when played head to head with a lot of variables in the base-game only. Also the Panda is cute.
#2: Star Realms. This one does the two-player-head-to-head-deckbuilding probably better than any other game out there and sold me on the concept of not only competitive (and interactive) deck-building but also on duelling games in general. Sure, a more experienced player will probably defeat a lesser one with ease but the shared card-pool levels the playing-field quite a bit. Add to that a never-ending slew of new content and you've got a real winner in my book.
#1: Allegiance: A Realm Divided. This one's pretty new to me and has already risen to the top of this category. Yes, I like it that much. Six games in (in less than two months) and I would be up for playing this any time. It is that much fun. And it promisses many more plays. I mean, if I only want to play each hero against each other hero, I still have 126 games ahead of me. Bring it on!


#2: Miniature games



This one might be a bit wonky from a definition-point-of-view. I'm not talking about tabletop-miniature-games, I'm talking about dedicated two-player-games that mainly employ miniatures. They can (and will be) quite different in how they do so, buuuut... You'll see.

#5: BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia. I STILL haven't played the video game this is based on very far (which is a shame because I liked the first BioShock and also what I have seen from the third one), but that doesn't stop me from liking the board game version quite a bit. It's a great game of scarcity-management on many levels. Scarcity of money, scarcity of troops, scarcity of cards, scarcity of moves you can do on your turn. It can be quite lucky and Booker will most likely wreck all of your stuff when you least expect it, but it is really fun and a super-pretty game.
#4: Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire. I was a bit apprehensive after my first few plays of this, because I played with decks that hadn't been constructed by myself and it seemed so incredibly random (especially in regards of how efficient you have to be because of the dearth of actions you get over the course of the game) but I've grown to like it, especially now that I own it myself and have built my own decks (which haven't been beaten yet). I don't know for how long I'll be following GW's business-model with this but for now, I think that it's really good.
#3: Star Wars: Imperial Assault. I haven't played the campaign-game but I found the skirmish one to be really, really fun. It's something I had always been looking for, a basically symmetric game that pits squads of very cool, very spezialiced characters against each other. I wished that there were official rules on how to use the equipment cards to personalize your squad further, but it is a fine game as it is. Even though I'm not that happy with FFG's business-model either.
#2: BattleLore (Second Edition). Got this one mostly by accident, didn't really want to play it at first, tried it, fell in love with it, the rest is history. BattleLore (Second Edition) is great. It's so very dynamic with units trying to outflank their opponents, timely plays of cool lore-cards and generally fun battles. It's a shame that it was discontinued so early but the stuff that is out there can keep you happy for quite some time.
#1: Die Schlacht der fünf Heere. Yeah, BattleLore (Second Edition) is already trying to undermine this game's position, but for the moment, Die Schlacht der fünf Heere still comes out on top. It's fun, it's pretty, it seems to tell a very unique story each and every time I play it. Perhaps the sameness will be its downfall somewhere down the line but I for one am not tired of it yet.


And #1: Too unique to fit anywhere else



Well, not unique in a general sense but unique as in they didn't fit into any of the other four categories that I defined here. These are just some great two-player-games that I love.

#5: Grand Austria Hotel. Wouldn't have expected it either but I find this game incredibly fun and absorbing. I wouldn't play it with four and always hesitate to bring it to the table with three, but at two, it's an incredibly fun dice-drafting-game that packs a far bigger punch than the outline would lead you to believe.
#4: Claustrophobia. I'm not the biggest fan of scenario-based games anymore, but this one is still great. It has dungeon-crawling, dice-allocation, beautiful pre-painted miniatures, awesome artwork and is super-quick to boot. The box is a bit cumbersome which is why I don't play it as often as I'd like anymore, but it's very, very cool.
#3: Twilight Struggle. I myself am kind of surprised by how much I actually like this game. It isn't pretty, it's incredibly long, the die-mechanism is just stupid and sometimes it can feel like nothing you had planned works out. But just sitting there, figuring out what to make of that bad hand you have been dealt, seeing your opponent chip away at everything you have built up, lying through your teeth that you don't really mind because you have a far better plan and then actually pulling off something incredible that wins you the game is a marvelous feeling. If you haven't played it, you should try it.
#2: Cave Evil. Yes, the EEE-guys' magnum opus goes up to four players and I have played it at every count but I think I like it best with two. That way it is quicker, doesn't rely on player-elimination that much (well, okay, it does, but once one player is eliminated, it's over) and it's far easier to stay on top of things. It loses some of the nastier surprises that can come up in a three or four-player-game but I think it's worth it. The game itself is absolutely mindbogglingly awesome, but that should go without saying, I think.
And #1: Doomtown: Reloaded. It had to be, right? This is just the ultimate mixture of area-control-city-building-RPG-style-poker-battling-harrowed-cowboy-madness. I love the theme, I love the gameplay, I love pretty much everything about this (except for how hard it is to find someone to play this with). If you're interested in any of those things, check out Doomtown: Reloaded, it's great.

And we're through, 25 great games for two players that you should perhaps check out yourself. What are your favorites? Which ones did I miss? Which ones do you absolutely abhor and in extension me too, because I like it? Tell me in the comments and see you in two weeks with something far more irrelevant again.
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Tales from the 7th Continent...

Christian Heckmann
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Mainz
Rheinland Pfalz
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The 7th Continent was one of my favorite games of 2017. Which is strange because it is a cooperative game (hiss) which I played exclusively solo (boo) and lost three times in a row (burn the witch!). I still kept coming back. I tried to get K. into playing it a few months ago but sitting there in silence letting her make all of the decisions nearly gave me a gastric ulcer. So on Monday, I decided to give up on our "saved game" from back then, reset everything, grabbed Leopold for company (I'm not crazy) and started my fourth journey into the depths of The 7th Continent.

Beware if you haven't played this game yet, I'll re-tell the story of my character, Eliot Pendleton, without regard to spoilers. I'm also playing on easy mode (because I don't want to start from scratch yet again) and as implied, I've already tackled The Voracious Goddess three times before so the early stages aren't gonna be all that explory, because I already know what to do. That said, let's get into the story of Eliot Pendleton on The 7th Continent.



So my first steps on the continent were a bit shaky. I stretched my legs and decided to head northward, walking directly into a batch of steam-spewing holes in the ground. Clever and observant man that I am, I skipped merily past this dangerous obstacle, earning my first experience in the process and just a mere seconds later, stumbling upon the corpse of a guy who didn't seem to be as lucky as me. He was all bloated with strange movement under his skin. That wasn't due to the steam, I suppose. Nevertheless I decided to investigate the remains and found a huge golden cog. Weird. Out of sheer curiosity (and well-versed in the logic of adventure-games), I grabbed the bulky gear and lacking the necessary skills to best the ocean decided to check the landscape south of my current position for further clues.
To the west I not only encountered a faceful of hot steam (yikes) but also animal tracks. My newly crafted bola homed in on its target and not long after that, I found myself in possession of enough meat to last me for a while and another golden cog. Seemed like there was some kind of nest around here.
Anyway, after crafting some more tools (including a neat basket to carry my meat around in) and learning something new about the local fauna, I retraced my steps to the north and spotted something interesting on another small island to the west. A nasty spider-bite (that luckily didn't leave a lasting impact) and a quick balance-act later I found a deserted submarine next to some withered graves. In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn't have disturbed those, because although my intentions were pure, the angry spirit that haunted this resting spot wasn't one to talk things through with. I was left shaken and freezing, drained of some of my fighting spirit but still alive. Time to investigate the submarine.
And wouldn't you know it, the two cogs I had found were just the things that were lacking to get the thing back to complete functionality. After repairing the craft, I quickly glanced at the hand-drawn map that accompanied me on this adventure and set a course to the north.



I arrived at an arboreous coast, ditched the sub, grabbed my trusty bow that I had crafted back at the island and went on the prowl again. I was tired, I was hungry, I was still freezing but the trees to the east looked like I could alleviate myself from all of these ills there. I was moderately successful, narrowly dodging a vicious bear and catching some more harmless game in the process. What followed was a feast for the ages. I roasted everything I had gathered so far over my quickly kindled campfire and ate all of it in one sitting. Well-fed and warmed up, I looked for a camping-spot amidst the trees, finding one that promised me a good night's sleep. There were some thorn-bushes to the north, the way my map indicated, that I didn't want to brave in the dark, so I rested for the moment, dreaming up some new ideas for devices that could help me in my quest in the process. Like... a pitfall with poisoned stakes at the bottom? Well, that should prove a bit unweildy to drag across the continent, I guess, but it could come in handy, so... why not?

Next time, perhaps.
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Wed Nov 14, 2018 7:00 am
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Clank! In! Leipzig!

Christian Heckmann
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Mainz
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Over the weekend, I visited K. in Leipzig. Pretty cool city altogether, you should visit it if you get the chance. I was especially enamored with the very diverse veggie kebab offering over there. Here in Mainz, you can get a sandwich with salad, falafel, soft cheese and/or under very special circumstances halloumi. That's absolute bottom line for pretty much every kebab-shop in Leipzig that I have visited. Seitan and soy alternatives aren't uncommon. How come that Mainz is such a progressive-minded city, yet when it comes to fastfood-selection we are so very, very conservative?

Anyway, we also played some games.



For a long time, I was a bit down on Avenue for being too simple, but I think that I've come around now, becuase there's something to be said for a game that can be just picked up and played like this. Also I need to revise my opinion about this game being somewhat solvable because over the course of the weekend, K. and me played six games of Avenue and we sucked at it big time. In my first game on Saturday, I managed to score a whopping 28 points, one of my worst results ever (the worst one still being that one time I scored 11 points...). We clawed our ways back up top over the course of the next few games, with me reaching the lofty heights of 128 points in the last one (still a far cry from my all-time-high-score of 143, no idea how I managed to achieve that one).



Avenue surely isn't the greatest game ever made but I think I misjudged it when I dismissed it as a flash-in-the-pan-game that I only played because K. liked it, because over the course of the last few months, it has risen to my second-most-played-game ever. It is quick and easy to play and fun in that "Let's do it once more and see if I can do better"-kind-of-way. And that's worth something, isn't it? Perhaps I should invest in Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama soon, because my Avenue-sheets are starting to run low...



Onward to newer fare. Even though K. was in "I don't want to learn anything new"-mode, I talked her into trying out NMBR 9 by advertising it as "Avenue meets Patchwork" and she liked it well enough that we played two games of it back-to-back (and I also left a set of tiles at her place so that we could play it via Skype). It's a really neat game, quick and easy to play and intuitive enough for pretty much anybody to immediately grasp it.



Our first game was pretty much a learning-game with K. trying to come to terms with how the tiles can and can't be placed. The second one was more competitive but I still emerged victorious throught placement of some very high tiles in the upper levels. Haven't managed to place something on the fourth level in any of my games yet, so there's still a lot of stuff to learn for me. And I'm eager to do so, because I like the game quite a bit. By the way, if you want to test your skill in NMBR 9 against me, check out last night's post. I'm looking forward to see whether you'll be able to beat me.



Finally, we played a game of Klong! Im! All! on Sunday. I still gravitate more towards Klong!, mostly because it's the quicker, more attractive game and I don't find the parodies on the cards in that one not quite as painful, but Klong! Im! All! is fine as well and it was K.'s birthday-present from me this year, so I guess I have to play it from time to time. I grabbed a Predator-knockoff early on, being able to effectively manage my noise-level, so that was nice. I also got quite a few boots and could zip around all over the spaceship. K. meanwhile invested into the only portal-key, hoping to grab an artefact and be out of there in no-time while I was still scouring the halls. That didn't work exactly like she had hoped to. Not only did I grab a higher-tiered artefact, I also ditched the ship before she could. Final scores were 134 to 98 in my favor. I could have even gotten a point more if I hadn't forgotten that I was still carrying a two-swords-potion which I could have used to defeat one more Goblin.



So yeah, Klong! looks better and plays quicker and doesn't rely on "Har-dy-har, it's a riff on Star Wars, you get it?" that much but Klong! Im! All! isn't half bad either. I like the Star Realms-style card-comboing, I like the modular board, I like the two-tiered objective. I still don't get how people can go "Klong! sucks in comparison", both these games are so very close to each other that loving one while hating the other seems really contradictory to me. I like 'em both. Don't know whether I should get K. the Clank! In! Space! Apocalypse!-expansion, though. Perhaps for her next birthday.
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Tue Nov 13, 2018 7:00 am
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Monday Night Multiplayer Solitaire #1: NMBR 9

Christian Heckmann
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A few months ago, John Shepherd had an awesome idea that sadly never took of the way it should have. He played NMBR 9 against the internet, as in filming himself playing it and giving everyone who owned the game to do the same and compare scores afterwards. I found this quite intriguing back then but didn't own the game. I own it now, played against John of yesteryears and won and found the experience to be quite enjoyable. So I secured John's blessing and decided to try and do something like that as a recurring segment on my blog as well. Not in a video-format, though. And perhaps not EVERY single week, but we'll see.

So here it is, the very first issue of Monday Night Multiplayer Solitaire and in honor of Mr. Shep's original version of this, we're playing a game of NMBR 9. If you want to compete with me (or anyone else doing this), just unpack your own copy of it, open the first spoiler down there, place the tile, open the next one and so on, until the game is over. Here we go.



Spoiler (click to reveal)
6


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9


Spoiler (click to reveal)
1


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7


Spoiler (click to reveal)
0


Spoiler (click to reveal)
8


Spoiler (click to reveal)
8


Spoiler (click to reveal)
3


Spoiler (click to reveal)
2


Spoiler (click to reveal)
5


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6


Spoiler (click to reveal)
9


Spoiler (click to reveal)
7


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0


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5


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1


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3


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2


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4


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4


Final score:

Spoiler (click to reveal)




59 points.


After-game discussion:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Well that was bad, I guess. I don't know, I'm pretty new at this, this was only my second game ever of NMBR 9, but I deffinitely scored higher the first time. One of my main-problems was that some really high-scoring tiles came out very early, like the first 9, first 7 and both 8s. I also wasted quite a few mildly valuable tiles in the upper left corner, as you can see. I was quite pleased with my last few moves, I had found a perfect spot for the first 4 and the second one that came right after that one could be placed quite well, too. So yeah, that wasn't that great, I'm sure someone else will handily beat my score.


So yeah, fingers crossed that SOMEONE will take the opportunity and test their mettle against me, or else this could be a very short-lived series. Anyway, here's a poll about which game should be featured next time on Mondy Night Multiplayer Solitaire, feel free to weigh in with your vote. And if you know of a game that would work in this format, let me know and perhaps I'll have a look at it.

Poll
What game should be played next on Monday Night Multiplayer Solitaire?
Avenue
Can't Stop Express
Cucina Curiosa
Dr. Eureka
NMBR 9
Noch mal!
Limes
Welcome To...
      13 answers
Poll created by Harblnger
Closes: Sat Nov 17, 2018 6:00 am
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Mon Nov 12, 2018 7:00 pm
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I just learned about... Nevera Duels

Christian Heckmann
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Once again, the IJLA-monicker isn't entirely correct. I scrolled past the game de jour at least three or four times without taking further notice, but now that I dug a bit deeper, I thought to myself that this might warrant an IJLA-post after all, so here we are again with...



Nevera Duels is the latest in the less-than-crowded field of Necromancer-games, a "genre" (and I use that word ever so carelessly) that I quite like. Love Cave Evil, love Rise of the Necromancers, I'm not saying that Nevera Duels will see eye to eye with those two games (I'm not saying that it doesn't either, though) but my experiences with the aforementioned titles led to the theme alone (two players embodying Necromancers locked in mortal combat with each other or something like that) kind of piquing my interest.

So it's a duelling-card-game. One that requires you to pre-construct a 36-cards-deck of creatures that you'll raise in order to defeat your opponent. Well, kind of. See, here's what I gathered from reading the rulebook in short form: You deploy your units to three "unit slots" and improve them by playing other fitting cards of a higher level on top of those, paying with cards that you play in a row face down as a resource and then you use your units' abilities to fight your opponent's cards and if you managed to destroy eight of those cards (which includes the units used as a base for higher-level-units, so by leveling up you get stronger creatures but also create primary targets), you win. If that sounds confusing, I think it isn't, the game seems pretty streamlined and stripped-down, yet by employing cards in various ways and offering a whopping four different abilities per unit card, it seems like it offers quite a few rather meaty decisions over the course of a game. The way units level up (there's designated prerequisite-units but you can also level up in a more freeform way by paying a few more resources) also seems like it'd make for some interesting deck construction, even though I fear that due to the way this works, luck of the draw could become an issue. I might be wrong about this though.

Apart from that, I think Nevera Duels looks and sounds pretty neat. The graphic design of the cards might be a bit problematic to some. I know that it was the main reason why it took me four attempts or so until I finally backed the game. It's not bad, the artwork is quite cool but the four ability-boxes on the left of each unit-card along with the header makes every card seem a bit cluttered. Apart from that, the preview-rulebook was riddled with the odd spelling-error, it'd be a shame if that found expression in the game-components themselves. Also the card-count bothers me a bit. There are gonna be 150 cards in the set (144 unique unit cards and six HP-cards, if I'm not mistaken, the later ones' usage sounds a bit fiddly as well, if you asked me) and publisher Tiger Crab Studios has announced that more 72-card-sets could be released as stretch-goals, but let's face it, that probably won't happen, so we're most likely stuck with that amount of cards for now, which might hurt the longevity of the game in the long run.

Then again, this is the third time Tiger Crab Studios tried to fund this project and this time, they've succeeded, and the game itself is quite affordable (19$ with free shipping in the US, 25$ with shipping included to Germany for example, that's neat) so I don't want to be too harsh on all of this. If you like Necromancer-themed games and/or duelling-card-games or perhaps just want to help all of the present backers to get one of them stretch goal decks, check out the project page for Nevera Duels, funding deadline is November 16th, 11:54 p.m. CET.
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Mon Nov 12, 2018 6:00 am
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Gōng baby gōng...

Christian Heckmann
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Gùgōng to be precise. This isn't making a lot of sense (the movie is good, though...).



We recently played a five-player game of Gùgōng and it was alright. That hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement. And it isn't. But that doesn't mean that I didn't like the game. I just think that with five players, it isn't at its very best. With four other players at the table, doing basically good at the area-majority-parts (great wall and fortune dice or whatever they're called) and still getting nothing out of it is a very real possibility. Also the cards on all of the action spaces change so rapidly that formulating a cohesive plan for your next turns is all but hopeless. But I have to say, I generally liked the gameplay. I tried my hand at a bit of everything and while lagging behind early on, I managed to pull off a respectable third place with scores being 50:45:35:28:27 (or something like that, not sure about the last two). It's quite puzzly yet open to oportunistic moves, because scores don't escalate as crazy as in other games if you focus on a very specific, narrow path (*cough* Teotihuacan: City of Gods... hey, I guessed the first few letters of that game correctly on my first try, isn't that something?). Pulling off a clever combo-move in this feels really satisfying. The card-swapping-mechanic is also neat and novel and leads to quite a bit of player interaction and it's pretty and sadly the theme doesn't come through as much as I had wanted it to.



I guess I'm prone to owners-bias quite a bit. If someone else had gotten the game to the table, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have liked (or "tried to like") it as much as I did. I would have played it, gone "Yeah, that had some neat parts but I don't think that it's for me" and moved on without looking back. But I do own that mega-super-duper-deluxe-edition with extra cheese and jalapenos on top of Gùgōng now so I'll better make it work and learn to enjoy it, don't I? Perhaps. I know that I want to try it again with three players, I think that this could be the sweet spot and it'd probably a rather quick game that way, too. So yeah, while I wasn't impressed with Gùgōng just yet, I haven't given up on it yet.



Afterwards with half an hour or so to kill, we decided to play a game or two of Coup. I have previously expressed my belief that I am mostly done with Coup, because I've played it so very often that I have seen everything it has to offer and then some. Buuuuuuut the two games of this that we played were really fun. It was kind of cool that there were four veterans and a new guy at the table, because that really shook up the formula. The fact that we trash-talked the mess out of each other at every opportunity didn't hurt either. There were some outrageous bluffs thrown around the table and by trying to make the game a bit more dynamic via calling people out on things that weren't that spectacular to begin with (first action of the first game, J. was like "I'm the Duke" and I immediately went "I don't believe you"...) I got eliminated pretty quickly both times. But that didn't bother me that much.



I don't think that I'll bring Coup to each and every game night again like I used to, but as said, it was a fun experience. Perhaps that little box does have a few more plays in it. Which is quite impressive, considering how often I have already played it.
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Sun Nov 11, 2018 7:00 am
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Germanizing Games: Now also movies!

Christian Heckmann
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Telling you about the strange German board game names that translators come up with from time to time is all fine and dandy but I don't want to create the impression that board game translators are the only Germans who from time to time lose their damn mind. No, the titles under which popular (or unpopular) movies enter the cinemas (or perhaps only the DVD-shelves) of the nation have been a laughing stock for quite some time, so I thought that perhaps you'd enjoy some cinematic educational work, too. So here's five movies with some pretty strange German titles for you. Just random picks, no rhyme or reason behind those.





It hasn't been that long since I've last talked about the best Schwarzenegger-movie out there, Mark L. Lester's "Commando". Great movie. Great final action sequence. But did you know that us Germans know the flick under the title "Das Phantom Kommando" ("The phantom command" - could also be "The phantom commando" but that'd be a rather unusual usage of the word Kommando). Why? I don't know. Was probably supposed to sound more edgy or something like that, our usual expression for "Commando", "Kommandosoldat" is also a bit unweildy. I kind of like the German title. It's stupid but then again, what about this movie isn't?





This one is just plain weird. "Demons" (or sometimes referred to as "Dance of the Demons") is an Italian horror movie directed by Lamberto Bava that was originally called "Démoni". In Germany, it's called "Dämonen 2", "Demons 2" or "Démoni 2" or what have you for some reason. Turns out, the sequel to "Démoni" had been released in Germany BEFORE its predecessor under the name "Dämonen". So when someone finally churned out a VHS-version of the original movie, the fitting translation was already taken, so they were like "Ah, let's just pretend that THIS is the sequel to the other one" and "Dämonen 2" was born. They also erased Lamberto Bava's name completely from the cover and supplanted it with that of writer/producer Dario Argento, probably to draw in bigger crowds. Eh, it isn't that great of a movie anyway.





Remember "Jaws"? Probably. Although most German audiences probably don't, because the clever German concessionnaires didn't think that anyone would want to see a movie called "Kiefer", so they went with "Der weiße Hai", literally "The white shark". And yeah, you can't argue that this isn't befitting of the movie, but come on...





So let's combine the last two movies, cinema classic and Italian origins, and you'll most likely get "Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo", "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (although if the order had been preserved, it'd be "The Good, the Ugly, the Bad"). In Germany however, the movie is called "Zwei glorreiche Halunken", "Two magnificent scoundrels". I guess the title is supposed to refer to Tuco and Blondie and lets Sentenza go by the board, but who knows? They most likely wanted to ride the success of "The magnificent seven" from a few years earlier. Anyhow, it's quite a strange choice.





(Edited the German cover to not upset some viewers...)


And finally, Jean Rollin's 1978... *ahem* "classic" (don't bother, it's a pretty bad movie, even though it has some quite atmospheric visuals and Shinji Mikami has probably seen it prior to creating the concept for Resident Evil 4) "Les Raisins de la Mort", "The Grapes of Death" in English-speaking countries (which is kind of appropriate given the contents of the movie). In Germany, it has quite a few titles. But the original one under which it entered cinemas in 1980 is probably most emblematic of how batshit insane some people responsible for Germanizing movie titles were back in the seventies and eighties. In Germany, the movie is best known as "Foltermühle der gefangenen Frauen", "Torture-mill of the captured women". Not only does that have absolutely NOTHING to do with what happens in the movie, it also doesn't make any sense period. I don't know what a torture-mill is and neither does the rest of the internet. So long story short, I love it. Yeah, it's a stupid, mostly boring movie but its title is absolutely glorious and I love to bring it up completely out of context in pretty much any conversation.

So there you have it, five more or less popular movies with sometimes downright bizarre German titles. Want to know more? Well, perhaps I'll continue this sub-series one day with a batch of five more movies, because God knows there's more than enough out there.
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Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:00 am
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I never said which shelf exactly...

Christian Heckmann
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Mainz
Rheinland Pfalz
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Believe it or not, I haven't actually spent that much money on board games over the course of the last few months or so. Most stuff that came in were trades or Kickstarter-rewards or things like that. So a few days ago, I was like "Hey, I've got quite a bit of disposable income" and decided to scour the depths of the internet for stuff that I could... *ahem* invest in. Here's what arrived lately.





I wouldn't call myself a big fan of Red Dead Redemption. I thought that it was a fine game in general that suffered from its mediocre middle-part and the general clash between stringent story-structure and open-world-gameplay. So I wasn't too pumped about Red Dead Redemption II. But I'm a sucker for Western-themes and the first reviews were more than positive, so I was like "Ah why the hell not" and bought it. Played it for a few hours now and I'm a bit torn. Its good moments are really good, its bad moments are... well... not bad, but not great either. It suffers from over-tutorializing everything and trying to be too realistic in a few regards. Ah well, I have barely scratched the surface yet, so we'll see.

I don't buy a lot of DVDs and Blu-rays anymore, because with access to Netflix, Amazon Video and Sky Ticket, you've really got enough choices when it comes to watching something. But I'll make an exception for Marvel-movies. I don't own all of them yet (I'm still lacking Doctor Strange, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Ant-Man and the Wasp of course, but I've seen 'em all) but Avengers: Infinity War was one that I needed as soon as possible. So I bought it at the first occassion. Also already re-watched it. It's an awesome movie and I'm looking forward to Avengers 4 next year quite a bit.

I also don't buy that many music CDs in this day and age. But there were some new releases from bands I liked that I would have loved to give a listen, so I ordered some of those. I was a bit apprehensive about Kamelot after the departure of Roy Khan but Silverthorn, the first album with new singer Tommy Karevik is quite awesome. Didn't listen to the follow-up Haven but the newest album The Shadow Theory is a bit disappointing. I only listened to it once but nothing really got me excited, like most of Silverthorn did. Perhaps it'll grow on me. We'll see.
Lacrimas Profundere are a band I always kind of forget about when I'm not currently listening to something by them. Their newest album, Hope Is Here, seems to be no exception. It has some elements that strike me as rather back to the roots, some that go in a very different direction than pretty much everything they've done before and some that are completely in line with the previous album Antiadore. Sounds good.
Karg I learned about when I stumbled across their track Alles wird in Flammen stehen which I immediately liked quite a bit, so I quickly ordered the album that song is found on. They remind me a bit of Agrypnie but the Austrian lyrics are... something I have to get used to, but yeah, pretty cool.
And finally, Ophis have made two awesome albums with Stream Of Misery and especially Withered Shades. So I thought that it'd be time to check out their third outing, Abhorrence In Opulence (especially since their fourth album has already been released last year...). And it's cool. Creepy, crawly doom/death-metal with an obvious black metal impact. Good stuff.

Okay, and some games came in. Here they are.





NMBR 9 sounded like a neat filler. I tend to like these Take it Easy!-style "everybody works with the same stuff" games even though they can theoretically be played asynchronous and without ever being in the same room (in fact, I already played my first game against John Shepherd back in June). I think K. will like it, too.

And then there's the Gùgōng-deluxe-edition. Quite a heavy box, the package said something like 3.3 kilos (that's a bit over six pounds!) and yeah, that could very well be true. It looks amazing, very neat production. The rules also make it seem quite intriguing. If the gameplay gets the theme across, I think I'll like it. If it doesn't, we'll see...

Also Lincoln by Martin Wallace. Should be a neat little card-driven two-player-wargame. It looks pretty good, the deck-unbilding or whatever it's called sounds like a neat thing, that was always my biggest problem with Wallace's deck-builders, he didn't seem to have the tightest grip on the mechanic in general and therefore some things about them were quite wonky. So with (initially) fixed decks, I think things could work out.

And finally, I got my pledge-reward for SSO including the SSO: First Captain-expansion. Backed it on a whim way back when because it was cheap and looked okay. As you can see, it comes in a pretty compact box which is a good thing. I was surprised to see that nevertheless it's listed as a 60-90 minute game. That's something I theoretically like, a real game in a small box. It's getting some bad press however due to a (allegedly) nigh incomprehensible rulebook and bad components. I guess I'll read through it myself soon, we'll see how that turns out.
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Fri Nov 9, 2018 7:00 am
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Free Tony!

Christian Heckmann
Germany
Mainz
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Something very strange is happening right now. Antonio Jeremiah Fitzherbert Boydell III., Esquire (I believe that's his full name) has been temporarily banned from the Geek for two days now, because he photoshopped something resembling an (in)famous American person around a perfectly fine piece of human anatomy (I might have gotten both of those things mixed up a bit, but who could blame me?) and not only did this cause Stuart Burnham to raise his voice no, World's second best NMBR 9-player John Shepherd took to his blog to lament Señor Boydello's absence.

Meanwhile yours truly reactivated his GIMP-skills to campaign for Tony's (if that's what you want to call him) release with this heartwarming piece:



(Yeah, I'm kind of proud of myself...)


Not all has been bad since Monsieur Boydellaire has been gone. For some reason, the stupid shit I have been posting lacking a real topic has garnered more thumbs than would have been sensible. Let's hope that this trend continues in the foreseeable future.

Oh, and let's also hope that Anthony-senpai will be with us very soon once more! Domo arigato!
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Fri Nov 9, 2018 12:12 am
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The other Top Five Thursday: Greatest movie-showdowns of all time

Christian Heckmann
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So it's an odd Thursday once more (had to check for a second whether my regular Top Five Thursday posts are scheduled for even or odd weeks, turns out it's even ones) and I want to talk about something outside of the scope of board games once more. Isn't that nice? So people were neither too hot on my thoughts on video games nor on music (which won't deter me from delving into those matters again in the future) but my piece on movies was well-liked. So movies it is once more this time. Here we go with...

The other Top Five Thursday: Greatest movie-showdowns of all time


According to me, of course. Because I already know that I'm gonna catch quite a bit of flak for these ones (that is if someone even musters up the motivation to comment on this piece), but yeah, I'm not really one for tension-filled one-on-one-duels or scary stalky horror-stuff or something like that, no sir, I like my movie-showdowns loud and dumb and with a high bodycount. Explosions are of course optional but never hurt. So without further ado, let's get into the list. Oh, also, spoilers, I guess.


#5: The battle of New York from The Avengers



It's turned into a bit of a cliché nowadays but it's worth remembering, that Joss Whedon's conclusion to the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe pretty much coined the tropes of "blue laserbeam into the sky" and "horde of faceless mobs coming from a rift for the heroes to punch". So while it's cool to hate on the sequence nowadays, you've got to remember that back in 2012, this wasn't as worn out as it is nowadays and we weren't as oversaturated with sequences like this back in the day. And for me personally, the sequence absolutely holds up. Yeah, sure, it draws from the fact that all of the character-development happened in the preceding movies and this one was basically one big final action scene for all of them, but it's still marvelous to behold, with mass destruction as far as the eye can see, great visuals, charming banter and cool moments of those characters you've grown fond of finally working together as a team for the first time. A lot of MCU-movies have cool final showdowns (even Thor 2... I really like that one) but for me personally, the original Avengers tops them all.


#4: Defending the witness in Grosse Pointe Blank



It hasn't been that long since I've last spoken of Grosse Pointe Blank and back then, I noted that the showdown isn't as clever as the rest of the movie. That's true, but it's still really cool. It's well shot, it's funny yet visceral in the right moments and especially as a denouement of a rather action-less movie, it feels a lot weightier than if Martin Q. Blank had killed evil hitmen every ten seconds in the preceding ninety minutes. Shane Black's 2005 movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang does something quite similar to great effect, so take that one as an honorable mention.


#3: The assault on Arius' island in Commando



This might seem like a contradiction to what I just said about the effectiveness of Grosse Pointe Blank's showdown, sure, because Commando is practically nothing but a single action-scene, still, while I acknowledge the power of juxtaposition, Commando's final action-scene is still an absolute marvel to behold. I mean, Schwarzenegger's character John Matrix just kills 'em all, storming the mansion of his nemesis Arius on his own and dispatching of 74 people in ten minutes or so. That's something, I guess. Sure, it isn't the most intellectual thing you've ever seen but... there's a reason why similar scenes in later movies are usually referred to as the "Commando-scene of the movie". The showdown from Rambo (the one from 2008 which is called John Rambo in Germany, because First Blood was already called Rambo over here) strikes a very similar chord but is a bit nastier. Still, also quite good.


#2: Party's over from Braindead



That's Dead Alive if you're American (yes, it's really called Braindead in Europe and Australia as well, I guess). Speaking of nastier, the lawnmower-scene from Braindead is probably the most memorable bloodbath in movie history. I've seen it many times ever since watching it for the first time... I don't know, sixteen years ago? (I know, I shouldn't have back then, but what's done is done, I guess...) And I think that it holds up incredibly well. The whole movie does. Peter Jackson had such a distinctive style back then (that he luckily preserved for his first big-budget-ventures and has sadly lost ever since King Kong) that makes the whole thing incredibly endearing, despite the ultraviolence. And yeah, even though it is wickedly brutal, it's all in good humor (I don't consider myself a huge fan of "serious" ultraviolent films... well, I like some of those, but I get incredibly bored by those that have nothing but sickening gore on display). So yeah, if you like good-natured, funny ultraviolence like Re-Animator, the later Evil Dead-movies, Night of the Creeps (which came up with the lawnmower before Braindead did) or the likes and you haven't seen Braindead yet... what the hell are you waiting for?


And #1: The church-shootout from The Killer



The Killer isn't the best film on this list. Next to Commando, it is probably the worst. But it's still really, really great, maybe John Woo's finest movie to date (even though I do like Hard Boiled quite a bit, that one has a great showdown as well, even though it is so bloody long that I can't help but feel that sometimes less is a bit more...). It's of course Hong-Kong-gun-opera-heroic-bloodshed-bullshit through and through with big, raw emotions and ever so high stakes and everything is dramatic and stuff and that's a bit tough to watch from time to time, but the showdown profits immensely from everything that came before that. It's just incredible from a technical viewpoint, also just cathartically dynamic and visceral and due to the emotionally charged nature of the story also quite sweeping. Woo has tried (and failed) to do something very similar in his latest movie Manhunt and not even he himself could make lightning strike twice, so how could anyone? This one is it, guys and girls, the best movie showdown of all time, the one from John Woo's The Killer.


And that's that. Do you agree? Do you disagree? What are your favorite movie showdowns of all time? Feel free to tell me and the other reader about those in the comments and see you next week when we're back to board games again on Top Five Thursday.
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Thu Nov 8, 2018 7:00 am
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