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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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Germanizing Games #4 - From Eclipse to The Voyages Of Marco Polo

Christian Heckmann
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Still looking stable. There has been some shuffling-around in the lower twenties but the games we focus on this time still haven't been affected. So let's jump right back into the usual routine and Germanize the heck out of some games...



Eclipse, a.k.a. "Acquire the Stars", as the Dice Tower guys called it that one time. We Germans also call it "Eclipse". That might be because there never was a purely German language version of the game (the first one came package with Italian and Polish rules, the second one with Czech, Polish and Spanish instructions... I can't for the life of me remember which version I did own, my statistics here on the Geek suggest the latter one but I don't recall finding any foreign rulebooks inside the box... weird), but also because finding an appropriate German title is pretty hard. The German translation "Eklipse" does exist but for the life of me, I have never heard anyone use it. More common translations would be "Verdunkelung" or "Finsternis" (our common German word for a solar eclipse is "Sonnenfinsternis") but I don't think that they work as well in bold letters on the cover of a board game box. The subtitle "New Dawn for the Galaxy" would most likely translate to "Neue Dämmerung für die Galaxie" (funny thing, in German, "Dämmerung" can mean dawn as well as dusk, we usually add another descriptor to it to clarify, so dawn is usually "Morgendämmerung" and dusk is "Abenddämmerung").



There is no German version of Kingdom Death: Monster and there probably will never be one. A literal translation of the title would be "Königreich Tod: Monster" (or perhaps "Königreich Tod: Ungeheuer") but I don't know what that would mean. I also don't know what the original title is supposed to express except for invoking the mood of the game. But I'm seriously curious, do you native speakers feel as awkward uttering the game's name as I do?









Nothing new on the Pandemic-front. Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor. The German title is exactly the same as the English one, this time they didn't even let the intern play around with the cover in Photoshop for ten minutes or so, they just used the original, slapped a German flag and the signifier "Deutsche Version" onto it (and shrinked the "Season 2" part because they wanted to keep the alignment with the rest of the logo but wanted the lettering to be centered beneath the logo, I guess?) and were done. Come on, guys, give me something to work with. This is just lazy.



Rejoice! There will be a German version of Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition! It's gonna be called "Twilight Imperium 4. Edition" if the German Asmodee-website can be trusted and it'll be out this fall and there's no cover artwork yet but I'm pretty sure it'll be the same one as the original. One thing has bothered me for a while: Do English speakers really use the word "Imperium"? I mean, sure, it's a Latin word to begin with, but is it used on a regular basis in English or do you usually go with "empire" and rely on "Imperium" when you want to be uber-fancy and stuff? Because us Germans usually translate your "empire" with "Imperium" (so the Galactic Empire in Star Wars is the "galaktische Imperium" in our latitudes). Or we use words like "Weltreich" or "Kaiserreich" (which would be strange for a game set in the far reaches of space). Anyway, I don't think that we'll have "Zwielicht Imperium 4. Edition" on the shelves come fall. Although it'd be kind of funny.







This one's pretty interesting and also quite clever if you think about it. Brass (I refuse to call it "Brass: Lancashire", because "Brass" was the original and for chronical reasons I think it should be mainly recorded like that here on the Geek, no matter what fancy new version exists nowadays...) is called "Kohle" in Germany (with the oh so clever subtitle "Mit Volldampf zum Reichtum", "Full steam ahead to prosperity" or something like this). Which is a great title. In his designer notes, Martin Wallace wrote that the title originates from the Yorkshirish - I believe that word doesn't exist - saying "Where there's muck there's brass", brass being a slang term for money. The problem is, there isn't any brass to be found in the game. In German, "Kohle" is used as a slang term for money as well. But it also means coal, one of the two resources found in Brass. Which gives it a nice ambivalent quality. So yeah, even though the translation (and the cover artwork) seemingly moves it more into the realm of train-games than is appropriate, you did good this time, Pegasus. Don't let it go to your head. And the subtitle is terrible.









Four covers in one sweep and I'm still missing the fourth edition one with completely different artwork. I could have linked that one, too, but I don't see the merit in it, because everything I want to talk about can be found on those four covers up there. Soooo... Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, right? It's been through quite a few changes ever since it debuted in 2012. Information here on the Geek suggests that the original Polish, German and English version were published by Portal with the same artwork on the cover (down to the description in three languages as you can see on the first picture above), only with different components inside. It was also called "Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island" (that's singular) back then. Pegasus naturally completely Pegsus'd the whole thing up with the second version by cutting off half of the artwork in order to get the game into a standardized box. As they do. Probably following Portal's lead who did something similar for the second print. They also scrapped the subtitle, because they seemed to be confused about it, due to the fact that the new Z-Man-version had premiered shortly beforehand and that was suddenly called "Adventures on the Cursed Island" (plural... the new version of the subtitle looks really strangely uneven if you look at it longer than a few seconds...). So for the third edition, not only did Pegasus decide to paste over what little artwork they had retained with meta-information and award-logos, they also did something almost clever. They added the subtitle "Abenteuer auf der verfluchten Insel". Translating to "Adventure on the Cursed Island". Or "Adventures on the Cursed Island". See, the neat thing about the word "Abenteuer" is that it is a so-called "Nullplural" (zero plural). You might know it from words like "sheep" or "cattle" or "tuna", words where the singular and the plural are the same (except for the articles, because in German, we have more of those than you have). Five minutes of Google-research seem to suggest that for whatever reason this usually only happens in English when animal names are concerned. In German, it applies to a variety of words. Like cake(s) (der/die Kuchen), or truck(s) (der/die Laster). Or adventure(s) (das/die Abenteuer). Neat, eh? I'm starting to think you're not half bad, Pegasus.





Man, it's hard to find comparable pictures of the box covers for different versions of Rosenberg's Le Havre. The German one looks somehow pretty blurred in direct comparison but that might be due to the quality of the pictures. Also the lower one is the cover of the Australian version. No idea what's going on there. It's also simply called "Le Havre" in all of its iterations, probably because it's named after the French city of the same name, so nothing of interest to be found here.







Not exactly sure what's going on here. The first one was announced as the "final cover" for Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar by the CGE-guys, but it's somehow missing the second designer, Simone Luciani. It also features a considerably smaller logo than the German version and the one at the bottom. Maybe I shouldn't trust whatever someone is writing here on the Geek that much. Still, us Germans call the game "Tzolk'in: Der Maya Kalender". No big surprises here.





Getting sick and tired of the Heidelbär yet? Well now you know what us Germans had to put up with over the years... There's no huge revelations to be found when Android: Netrunner's English and German versions are compared. We also call it "Android: Netrunner" (an android is called "Android" in German as well, perhaps "Androide" if you want to be a bit less prosaic, netrunner is hardly translatable, if you went with the literal "Netzläufer", the game would sound like one about futuristic tennis or something like that...). The cover-design is the same, but of course the guys and girls at Heidelberger insisted on pouring all of their creativity into the tagline. "A Card Game of Cyber Struggles in a Dystopian Future" was turned into "Ein Kartenspiel über den Krieg im Cyberspace einer dystopischen Zukunft", roughly "A Card Game about the war in cyberspace of a dystopian future". Smooth.





And finally, I've already talked about this one back when the idea for this series of posts was born on Top Five Thursday. Let me quickly paraphrase: The Voyages of Marco Polo ("Die Reisen des Marco Polo") is called "Auf den Spuren von Marco Polo" ("On Marco Polo's trails") in Germany for some reason. Which is extra strange, because there already was a game by Dr. Knizia with the exact same German title. Not only does the German version occupy a different perspective than almost any other version out there (you're not really looking at Marco Polo's travels, you're just some guy following him, apparently), Hans im Glück were also trying to completely confuse potential buyers who already know the Knizia-game. Why? I don't know. Anyway, enough about that. What I find kind of interesting and didn't touch on back then is the difference in covers between the German first edition and basically all of the other ones. So the lighting is a bit different, in the German one, everything in the background is a bit bigger, especially Marco's head, and for some reason, you've got an extra guy in the caravan in the foreground. That guy is also present on all later German printings, but why wasn't he there for the first edition? I don't know. Do I want to know? Nevertheless, quite strange.

So there's another ten. Not the most interesting batch out there if you asked me, so this probably means that you'll thumb the thing into oblivion compared to the previous ten which I personally found far more interesting. I don't get you people! Anyway, look forward to next time, when we'll be talking about colors, codenames and more French communes. Oh what fun!
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Wed May 23, 2018 3:12 pm
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Slaying monsters, building guildhouses and unifying Japan for fun and profit!

Christian Heckmann
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I did it again. I threw way to much money at Spielgilde in order to save up on shipping costs. You'd think that I'd learn some day, but nah, doesn't look like it. I think I should cancel my pledge to prune my collection to 365 games before it gets really ridiculous. Anyway...



Here's the last days' haul. Most of it was part of that Spielgilde-order, only Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan was one that I got in a trade. I had been eyeing that game for quite a while, heard that it was really, really good. The projected playing time of 3+ hours held me back a bit, but it's a two-player-game and in those, I don't mind that much. Plus, S. (number one, I think, I should be a bit stricter when it comes to their numerations) is a huge Japan-buff and has already registered interest in trying out the game. I'm looking forward to that, because the rulebook makes this look like a mighty fine game. I hope for the best.
Bloodborne: The Card Game – The Hunter's Nightmare was kind of a no-brainer given the price. I have only played the base game once since I received it last year (although I pushed for playing it a few times and will double down on this in the near future) but I was pleasantly surprised, albeit a bit taken aback by the relative dearth of cards. The expansion more than doubles the size of almost all decks and introduces veriable player powers and harsher punishment for death, so that's cool. It's a shame that I had to chuck out the pretty neat base game insert to accomodate the new components. Oh well.
Aufstieg der Gilden had drawn my interest ever since I heard of it for the first time a few months ago. Judging by the cover, tt looked like a board game version of Europa 1400: The Guild, and I'm always looking for something like that. Well, it's not. It's an auction/building-game and the opinions are pretty divided over whether it does any of these parts well. Reading the rulebook, it seems like a fairly interesting game with a neat bidding-mechanism and a lean ruleset (only four pages, sounds streamlined). I'm a bit worried that a playing time of 90 minutes might be too much for what the game has to offer, but we'll see about that.
Fairy Tile looks like a neat Takenoko-variant in a smaller box which is always nice. I love Takenoko but it really is a small game in a big box which makes it a hard sell come game night. Fairy Tile on the other hand is sometimes touted as too light and too random. But it's exceptionally pretty and seems to be a rather relaxing affair.
And finally, a trio of escape-room games. Deckscape: Das Schicksal von London, Deckscape: Raub in Venedig and EXIT: Die unheimliche Villa. I recently played the first Deckscape-title and it was a pleasant affair. I've also finished two EXIT-titles (and have two or so more on my shelf at the moment), so perhaps I should play those before buying new ones? Maybe. But it's always nice to have a bit of a selection at hand when the opportunity presents itself to get an escape room game to the table.

So that's that. There's gonna be a game night this Friday, I think I'm gonna pack a bunch of shorter games this time, because lately, I haven't been playing that much stuff, except for the occasional game of Welcome To... with my girlfriend, so perhaps that's a good opportunity to catch up on the mid-range stuff I've been hoarding lately. Hopefully.
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Wed May 23, 2018 12:42 pm
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I just learned about... The Hyperspace Test Pilot Program. And I'm not sure how to feel about it...

Christian Heckmann
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An hour and a half ago, an email arrived at my inbox courtesy of the Petersen Games newsletter, giving me the opportunity to sign up for the Hyperspace Test Pilot Program(™©®) and receive the newest game published by Petersen Games in an advanced prototype form well before their Kickstarter begins this Fall so that I can play it with my friends and spread the word via social media and yadda yadda yadda. That's kind of cool. I think. I'm not really sure about it.

Of course, this wasn't a tailor-made invitation for me personally, it's open to anybody. So anybody who likes Petersen Games can apply in order to help with the development of the game and gets something out of it and its a neat way to bridge the gap between the publisher and the fanbase and for a second, I was tempted to fill out the form and apply for a place in the Hyperspace Test Pilot Program(☂☢☭) as well. That is, until I read the terms of appliance. It's not that they'd be completely unreasonable or something like that. They are completely understandable, because if a company like Petersen Games gives away something for free, of course they want something out of it. They're not asking for much, really, only that you make yourself familiar with the rules and play the games at least three times before the Kickstarter begins and that you'll continue to play it in the future and tell all your friends about it via social media... You know the drill.

My first reaction to this list of prerequisites for applying was "Well that sounds like work". Perhaps it's my lazy nature, perhaps it's my previous experience with spoiling something fun for myself due to outside (or perhaps also inside) pressure. Sure, I'd love to test Petersen's latest venture, but I would want to have fun with it and don't feel compelled to fill a certain quota while playing it. Sure, I could apply and do my outmost to uphold my end of the bargain but don't feel too bad if I didn't meet all of their demands. In the end, I don't think the terms of this semi-giveaway would pass for a legaly binding contract. It's even in their list of stuff you have to agree to in order to qualify. "I understand that my eligibility and selection for any future free advance games will be based on the results of my engagement with Hyperspace." So if I apply and get the game and mess up my responsibilities, the consequences will be that I probably won't get their next game if I apply for it the next time. That's not that harsh. But a) I don't want to consciously lie to Petersen Games by rubber-stamping all of the preconditions, knowing full well that I will most likely not uphold all of them and b) possibly take the place of someone else who'd do a way better job at promoting the game than I'd do, because they'd be so impressed by my blog-presence here on the Geek and the hundreds of thumbs I get for screaming nonsense at popular games. So basically what I'm trying to say in this post is that I'm a really nice guy who doesn't swindle board game publishers for fun.

But also that I'm a bit hesitant to fully endorse the way that Petersen Games see this through. As said, their terms of agreement are pretty reasonable, but... I can't help but feel the seeds of a Stockholm-Syndrome-situation planted by agreeing to them. I talked about it before, you can get used to and even start to like the biggest pile of doo-doo if you just expose yourself to it for a prolonged period of time and I'm not suggesting that Hyperspace will be bad, but there could be a certain conflict of interest for people taking part in this Hyperspace Test Pilot Program(iceworld, fireworld, boss) who notice that perhaps the game isn't as good (for them, subjectively speaking) as they had hoped to. What will those people do? Continue playing until they like it? Violate the terms of agreement and stop? Would they lie in their social media evaluations so that they don't upset Petersen Games? Would they publish their unfiltered opinions and therefore harm the game's reputation before it comes to Kickstarter? Will we get unreflected hype from the testers because they get something for free and praising it doesn't cost a thing? I feel like the whole affair could turn into a minefield for both sides. Then again, I could be completely wrong.

So there you have it, that's the Hyperspace Test Pilot Program(with extra cheese and jalapenos on top), an interesting idea thought up by a sympathetic publisher that could go completely down the drain. Or perhaps will be a great step in the right direction and a template that could shape the future of game development. Who knows? I won't be part of it, due to the reasons mentioned above, but if you think that that's right up your alley, here's the link to the Hyperspace Test Pilot Program(okay, okay, I'll stop it!). And if you're reading this, Sandy, and feel incredibly moved by my honest words and want to send me a copy of Hyperspace even though I declined to take part in the program due to my incredible journalistic integrity (*snort*, sorry), drop me a message.
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Tue May 22, 2018 4:43 pm
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This is probably only funny for German speakers, but...

Christian Heckmann
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I just remembered that a while ago, there was a Kickstarter for Deadly Premonition: The Board Game and even though I wasn't too impressed with the project back then, being a huge fan of the video game, I decided to check whether it's available from Amazon.de. It is. Aaaaaand the (probably Google-translated) product informations are quite... something. May I quote?

Quote:
- Inhalt:
- Gaming Matte, 1 Custom sterben, Original Soundtrack, 60, Profiling Karten à 24 Karten mit den verdächtigen, Token, 4 Line-Up Boards Wetterstation, 4 Ausrichtung Karten, 5 Agent Bio-Karten, 4 Guide Karten, 10 Karten, Regelbuch
- Dampf-Taste zum tödlichen Ahnung: Die Director 's Cut


Um... yeah... well... Cool? It's also called "Deadly Ahnung das Board Game" on Amazon. If the real component quality was comparable to the quality of this translation, I'd buy it in an instant!
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Sun May 20, 2018 9:31 pm
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I just learned about... Misty Ruins

Christian Heckmann
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This one's odd. As I was browsing the latest Kickstarter-projects, I stumbled across one that was represented by a woman holding up a less than awe-inspiring game box and pointing directly at the camera. The name of the project was equally strange but as of writing, the game had already amassed more than 130 times as much as its financing goal. What the heck was going on there, I asked myself and investigated.



I don't know that much about Joe Magic Games and its owner Mark Hanny (except for having had The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein on my wishlist for ages for reasons unknown to me in this day and age...) but he seems to be quite a popular guy. Maybe because in the past, he has (and this is taken directly from the Kickstarter-page for his newest venture, Misty Ruins) delivered over 100% of past Kickstarter rewards. You gave away more than people actually paid for, Mark? Nice move.

Anyway, Misty Ruins, right? The Kickstarter page is pretty sparse when it comes to real information about... well, almost anything. There's a component-breakdown (and those components aren't the most beautiful things I have ever seen, I can tell you that, the picture above incidentally isn't the cover of the new version but I couldn't find that one on an appropriate scale), three steps to playing the game and the Garth-Marenghi-ish claim quoted above. A bit of investigation leads me to believe that this is an older game, originally released in 2010, getting a reprint via Kickstarter. Which isn't all that bad because the one review here on the Geek (that was written in 2011) makes the game out to be quite fun and therefore allowing a wider audience to get a hold of it is a neat thing.

From reading the rulebook, the descriptions and the review, here's what I gather about the game: You are an adventurer in a dungeon and you have lost your memory. The player to your left knows who you are (and you know who the player to your right is) and whenever you come across some kind of challenge on your dungeon-delving adventure, you ask that guy whether you pass or you don't, eliminating possibilities of who you are at every turn, learning a bit more about what you can or can't take on and finally regaining your memory and identity for some additional points at the end of the game. It sounds kind of clever and I'm a sucker for deduction games as well as dungeon crawlers, so if the game delivers what it promises (a fast paced deduction-adventure-game that plays in less than an hour for most player numbers), I'm game. I just wished it would look a bit better.

Misty Ruins is avalibale on Kickstarter for another 54 days and shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg (unless you live in Germany, why not look into EU-friendly shipping, Mark?) and you can find it here.
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Sun May 20, 2018 10:43 am
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It's all about standards. Also Prototype.

Christian Heckmann
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So I recently re-played Prototype 2. Kind of. See, I started my second playthrough about three years ago, stopped two fifths into the game, lend it to S. (who back then had recently acquired a PS3), got it back last Sunday and over the course of the last four days or so finished my playthrough from way back when. In case you don't know [PROTOTYPE] and its sequel, they are the ugly bastard-children of Grand Theft Auto III, God of War (2005), Mirror's Edge and... Hitman: Codename 47? Yeah, that sounds about right. They are also two of the greatest games of the PS3 era and, for me personally, the epitomes of the sandbox-genre and the games to which all other games of that ilk have to be measured up against.

Sure, they aren't perfect games, they share some of the usual sandbox-game-problems I laid out in this post, but they do understand that a game with this much freedom needs adequate gameplay to make the most of it. I feel like in this day and age, we have seen all possible variations of "You're a criminal in a huge open world and you can steal cars and drive through it". Sandbox-games need to evolve beyond that and the [PROTOTYPE]-games show how it can be done. Parkouring around the city, transforming into cool things, partaking in hilariously over the top brawls, that's cool and fun and (at least for me) never gets old. [PROTOTYPE] suffers a bit from its bland world (although that isn't too bad since the gameplay is so frantic that you hardly ever notice), its strange difficulty-spikes and its conceptually cool but very disjointed story, its sequel fixes quite a few of those problems but introduces new ones, mainly in the form of James Heller, its protagonist, because while Alex Mercer, the first game's anti-hero, was by no means a very good character, Heller is a completely charisma-free zone, witlessly screaming profanities and antagonizing half of the supporting cast without reason at every turn. Nevertheless, both are great games and if you are into the freedom of the Grand Theft Auto-games and the visceral thrill of the God of War-franchise, the Prototype-titles might be right up your alley.

But that's not what I actually wanted to talk about, I just wanted to use Prototype 2 as an example to segue into a very specific problem I had with the game. See, once I booted up my three year old savegame, I tried to re-adjust to the controls. Which isn't hard, because they are mostly intuitive for seasoned players and also ultra-responsive. But then, I wanted to look up where my next mission objective was set and so I unsuspectingly pressed the Select-button. And it sent me into the main game menu. You know, where you can change options and save the game and load the game and stuff. The map however can be found when pushing the Start-button.

This might sound like a completely insubstantial nitpick, sure, with people going "Duh well, you accidentally landed on the menu-screen this one time, happens, what's your problem?". My problem is that five, six hours later, the same thing kept happening. I wanted to look something up on the in-game-map and I pressed select, as you do, since in games of that genre, the map is always... err... "mapped" to the Select-button. Conversely, whenever I wanted to save the game, I pressed Start instead of Select because Start is what usually opens the menu. This is hardwired into my brain, I'm not gonna unlearn it, because even if I did, a month from now I'd be playing the next game where the "standard"-configuration is used and I'd have to re-learn "the original way" once more. So just stop it! Stop "innovating" time-tested control-schemes. You might think that you have found the perfect alternate solution, but you haven't. You are just plain wrong. And I'm not just talking to Prototype 2-developers Radical Entertainment here (which would be pretty pointless, because Prototype 2 didn't meet financial expectations and publisher Activision "downsized" the company considerably afterwards and announced that they wouldn't be developing games anymore), I'm talking to everybody. And to illustrate my points, here's how some games should and shouldn't be played:

- If there's a freely adjustable camera involved in your game, it's to be controlled via the right stick. Period. No fancy stuff with the L- and R-buttons, no stupid motion-controls, there's a second stick on those controllers for a reason.

- That reason is not close-combat. It was stupid in Alone in the Dark (2008) (PS3/360), it was stupid in NeverDead, I heard that it was incredibly stupid in Too Human, don't know, didn't play it. It can be used to implement a dodge-mechanic, God of War (2005)-style, but apart from that, simply leave it alone.

- Also while talking about God of War (2005)-style brawlers and the likes: X is for jumping, Square is for light attacks, Triangle is for heavy attacks. You got that? Good.

- If your game is a turn-based JRPG or something comparable, X is the button of choice for initiating conversations, interacting with objects, confirming choices, etc. Nobody wants to use Circle for that stuff, Final Fantasy VII. Nobody!

- Also in those games, Triangle opens the menu. Yes, I know, some of my beloved Megami Tensei-games violate that rule by mapping the menu to Square and the map to Triangle. I've had a very serious conversation with them about that faux-pas.

- In first- and third-person-shooters, I really don't care that much whether R1 and L1 or R2 and L2 are used for aiming and shooting. Just make it configurable in the options.

- Coincidentally fine aiming doesn't belong on the R3-button. I only let that slide because fine aiming was completely pointless in a game of your caliber, Just Cause 2.

- What does belong on R3 is the option to switch the shoulder over which you're looking during fine-aiming. That's important. Really. And it's not something you want to map to your digi-pad because I only have so many fingers on my left hand and there's none designated to the digipad when I have to use the stick and the shoulder buttons at the same time. What's wrong with you, Red Dead Redemption? Even Uncharted: Drake's Fortune managed to do this right...

- Also don't design controls in such a way that you have to use all of the shoulder-buttons simultaneously. Perhaps there's someone out there who uses the index-fingers of both hands for the bumpers and the middle-fingers for the triggers, but that's not me and neither anyone I personally know.

- Speaking of the digi-pad... If you design a 2D-game, make it controllable via the digi-pad. Controlling 2D-games with an analogue-stick is... inconvenient, to say the least. If you have to insist on doing that, make it configurable.

- Also, restrain yourself when it comes to using one and the same button for multiple things. Two Worlds II (on PS3 at least) is an absolutely hilariously awkward example for this done wrong. Soooo... the coveted R2-button, right? Push it while you're standing still and you'll block attacks. Cool. Got it. Hold it down and then start moving and you'll sneak. Aha, okay. Sounds reasonable. Start moving first and then hold it down and you'll sprint? Excusemewhat? That's like... the absolute opposite of sneaking. Why do you map two actions that are polar opposites of each other to the same button? Well, it lead to many hilarious moments during my playthrough, I give it that.

- It isn't that hard to get creative when your buttons are limited. Axiom Verge on the PS Vita managed it, too. They added four virtual buttons to the touchscreen and it worked very well. Do you know what didn't? Mapping the weapon-selection to the right analogue stick, because whenever I was timing a jump or something like that, I inadvertently opened the weapon selection. Yey.

- And finally, no matter which game you are, stop the "Press Square and Triangle at the same time"-nonsense. X and Square is okay. Circle and Triangle is okay. None of those are very... good, they are strange, unintuitive motions that shouldn't happen if it can be helped. But Square and Triangle? Seriously, just stop it.

I know that none of those things I wrote will have any impact whatsoever, but... Sometimes you just got to get a few things out of your system. And who knows? Perhaps there's someone out there thinking about designing an absolute nightmare of a control scheme and at the last minute, they are stumbling across this blog post and think again. Perhaps not but you never know. Anyway, if there's one thing you should take away from this post, it's this: Go and play Prototype 2. It's great.
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Sat May 19, 2018 12:10 pm
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Rejoice! The Nussy hath cometh!

Christian Heckmann
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There it is, in all its glory! The Nussy! I got it! I really did! The English version on top of that because reasons. Are you happy? DO YOU LOVE ME NOW, TONY?!?

Sorry, got a bit carried away there. Yeah, got Nusfjord in the mail today. I hope it's good. I think I'll bring it to the next meetup. I did already read the rules. They didn't inspire that much awe in me, but we'll see.

Also new to my shelf are the following games:



Quarantine I got in a trade against one of the more boring Knizia-titles that somehow accumulated at my place over the years. I heard that it isn't really that good but I'm a sucker for games where you build something, so perhaps it's salvagable after all? Lucidity: Six-Sided Nightmares was a Kickstarter that I backed because it looked kind of neat and wasn't super expensive. It's a push your luck game with a "Don't Rest Your Head"-type theme and it has some cool custom dice. Capital Lux had been on my wishlist for quite some time. It's drafting (boo) but it's from the Aporta-guys (yey), so perhaps it's a cool game? I like its portability and the graphic design. Likewise for Battle for Rokugan which comes in a smaller box then I had anticipated. I'm not really well-versed in the L5R-universe, I bought it because it got some rather positive press, because I do like asymmetric area control games and because it wasn't really expensive. Speaking of, I got The Expanse Board Game from Spielgilde. Still haven't watched the show yet, although I wanted to for quite some time, but I heard good things about that one and I do like the core-gameplay. And finally, Onitama: Senseis Weg (gosh, Pegasus, you published an expansion, what happened?!?) came alongside The Expanse Board Game aaaand... I've got a bit of a problem with it. Not because I think that it'd be bad. Onitama is a great game and more cards are an absolute no-brainer. No, the real problem is... Well... Look at it...



Don't they look cute together, pops Oni and his lil' one? I can't throw away the expansion box, that'd be heartless. But I really can't justify keeping an empty box on my shelf, can I? Perhaps I need to find something to put in there. Damn you, Pegasus...
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Thu May 17, 2018 4:34 pm
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Top Five Thursday: Things I learned from board games

Christian Heckmann
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It's always nice if you're learning something while you're having fun, isn't it? Sure, mindless entertainment can be satisfying, too, but if you step away from something you've enjoyed and suddenly notice that you've somehow gotten smarter, then all of the time you've pourred into whatever you just did doesn't feel as wasted anymore. If you think about board games that teach you something, you'd most likely think about trivia games like Terra or Nobody is Perfect, perhaps even good old Trivial Pursuit. And of course everything designed by Phil Eklund. Seriously, the guy is nuts in the best possible way. But if you look close enough, almost every game out there has something to teach you. So today I present to you:

Top Five Thursday: Things I learned from board games


Board games immerse us into so many different themes, so many different situations, so many different... things. Things we have never experienced in real life (either because they lie outside of our daily routine or because they are physically impossible), things we never even spare a thought about, until we're faced with truths about them. Sadly, most of those truths are complete bollocks the way they are tackled in board games. Which makes them all the more entertaining...


#5: War is... complicated



(Before all of the history-buffs and wargamers come out of the woodwork to tell me that YES, IT ABSOLUTELY IS and how this and that mechanism is totally accurate at representing the intricacies of real warfare... you don't have to, this is a joke, I'm not really suggesting anything, relax.)
War is hell, yes, I know. Sometimes it's also a bureaucratic and logistic nightmare. Which might be the same thing as hell. Having been a kid in the nineties and been raised on Risk, I thought I had had a pretty firm grasp on war. War, this is this thing where groups of soldiers periodically move to a neighboring country, roll some dice until one side falls over and then whoever started in Australia wins. Looks like Risk has lied to me, because in a true war (as represented by other board games like Kemet), a nation's commander is like a fussy mum who has to take care of absolutely EVERYTHING. Without your impetus, nothing happens. Your ressources just lie there unused and nobody thinks about replenishing casualties or improving technology. Your soldiers need their hands held at all times. You can't just tell them to go over there and whack these guys over there over the head with their pointy sticks, no. You need to focus all of your efforts on your troops just marching a single space (there are spaces in real wars, aren't there?) and then, if you take your eyes off them for a second, they just stand there in the middle of the desert (possibly atop a giant elephant or a mythical snake) and stare into space, having completely forgotten what they were supposed to do. Sometimes it's even worse than that. During the ancient Greek wars as depicted in the documentary piece Cyclades, you can't even build or move ships without personally appealing to the right God. And don't get me started on that strange phenomenon that is called "Running out of movement-spaces" (or sometimes "Not having the right card to activate anything worthwhile" in BattleLore (Second Edition)-slang).
Luckily, things seem to have improved over the last few years. Lords of Hellas has shown us that sometimes soldiers ARE capable of moving on a regular basis without being yelled at every step of the way (although they tend to be kind of picky about how big the groups they travel in can be if your leader isn't the most charismatic guy out there) and Heroes of Land, Air & Sea gave you the option to delegate half of the possible actions to the act of pointing at an opponent's war efforts and screaming "Just do what they are doing" at your workers. Progress.
Good thing that skirmishes are still such a civilised affair... sometimes. Like in Nexus Ops, where all of the combatants perfectly line up and wait their turn until they join the fray. And if your forces were actually hit by your opponents, they are kind enough to let YOU decide, whom they actually kill. What nice fellas.


#4: Space is relative



Speaking of space... Not space space, well, sometimes also space space, but... You know, spatial stuff more generally. Like... have you ever noticed how small all of the buildings in the titular city from Lords of Waterdeep are? In most of those, there's room for only one agent. Like the Grinning Lion Tavern for example. One (immensely oversized) guy goes in, two (reasonably proportioned) rogues come out and the thing has to close for the day because there's no more room in there (unless someone has recovered the Magister's Orb, because then, there's enough room for another guy and there are also two more rogues present all of a sudden...). But it's not only the city of Waterdeep that is... strangely proportioned. Take for example the forest in Stone Age. There's slots for seven guys lumbering it up at the same time. Why can'th eighth guy tag along, too? Obviously, there's enough trees there, because the next turn, seven more guys can do their thing in there. And things get really strange once you play with less than four players, because suddenly it's quite possible that even though there aren't seven guys in there, there's no more room for another one.
But it also works the other way around. In Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, each square can house an infinite number of miniatures. So it's possible to have Billy, Johnny, Becky and Father Joseph cuddle up with eighteen zombies, Old Betsy, a horse, a bunch of other survivors and a pile of weapons behind the counter of the local diner. Sounds reasonable.
What I'm having trouble with is understanding why there's a stacking-limit of two characters per side on a single hex in Psycho Raiders. I mean, why can there suddenly be four people in the same vicinity that can usually only be occupied by two, if the four hate each other? Why do two cars take up the same space as two juvenile campers... unless those campers are located inside one of those vehicles, because then, suddenly there can be four guys on the inside and another one on the outside (perhaps all of the cars were manufactured by whomever Jack Colt bought his camper from...). Where's Einstein when you need him?


#3: I've never actually built anything, but...



Back to the great city of Waterdeep for a second, because there's a builder's guild there. What they do is provide a neat service. At any given time, they have three prefab houses on display (which might explain why there's only room for one agent in their guild hall if that thing has to house three complete buildings within...) and you can go there with a bit of money and hand that over and then they're gonna transport the completed building to wherever you want to put it. Sadly, they're a rather inflexible lot, because as said, they only have three buildings ready made and if you wanted to build something else, you're out of luck. Perhaps they should change their name because it's kind of misleading. But besides Lords of Waterdeep opening my eyes to the fact that usually builders tell YOU what they can build for you, other games have also done away with my many preconceptions about the act of building something.
Cyclades and Scythe for example taught me that when it comes to building stuff, space doesn't matter (see, space is relative, I said it!). If you just own the right buildings or resources or philosophers (don't ask), no matter where they are, they can accumulate to a great thing you wanted almost ANYWHERE. Or Suburbia, from which I learned that cities are always built as a single, inseparable entity, mostly from the inward out. It's physically impossible to leave space between a city-block and your newly started building-project... err, sorry, designated space for your turnpike-airdrop (the builder's guild from Waterdeep is expanding, I see). Also those ready-made buildings get cheaper the longer they sit on the shelf, that is until it's discontinued altogether or someone decides to grab the thing and turn it into a lake (however that works).
Or Habitats, a game that completely immerses you into building a wildlife-park. By sending your animal of choice (it's a penguin for me, most of the time) onto a strange marketplace where you can only walk in straight lines (and never backwards) and all of the animals and flowers and tourists(???) are free and come with their own pieces of land and even if you don't have the fitting biotopes for any given animal, the Animal Protection Agency will gladly take your assurance that you're gonna provide for the creature given time... By buying more and more animals. What was I talking about?


#2: Guests are weird



Tourists, right. Weird bunch. Sitting around in a café in Vienna, waiting for their order, have incredible patience and don't even complain if whatever they ordered arrives piece by piece at a glacial pace. And once they are satisfied and retire to their room at the Grand Austria Hotel, their payment is... strange. Is that usual hotel policy? Or do some of those establishments work on a "pay what you want"-base? I mean, I kind of get how you'd forgo the usual payment if your customer promisses to tell their buddy the Emperor what a great guy you are, but accepting additional personnel or architectural services as contribution? And what about those guys showering you with wine and strudel and coffee after you just served them the very things they are now handing out to you? A weird bunch, I tell ya...
Or perhaps it's the hotels themselves that are strange. I mean, judging by other games examining that theme, there are some weird things going on in this line of work. Hotel Samoa for example alerted me to the usual method of taking a vacation: Checking into a hotel, paying a one-time-fee and then staying until the next plane to your home-country leaves. Do they only do this in Samoa? Most likely, because in Sun, Sea & Sand, every tourist needs lodging but they only ever sleep there during the first week of their stay. Afterwards, they spend their days and nights at the attractions that correspond to their shirt-(or skin?)-colors (or colours if you wanna get Tony Boydell about this). And the next week, they move on to the next one. But they only ever move along the beach to the right, dismissing all of the attractions that were built during their stay if they are located ahead of those. No reason to turn back, is there? I stand corrected, it's the guests who are weird.
I mean, look at the guys arriving via train in Letnisko. If they weren't picked up by a hotel owner during one week, they just sit there at the train station, hoping to score a shelter next time. Don't they have obligations, families, HOMES to go back to?


And #1: Your success in life can be easily measured



Sensible person that I am, I usually like to conclude a rules explanation of a game where at the end, the winner is the player with the most money, with the words "as in real life". But is that true? I mean, board games taught me that the winner isn't always decided by money. Sometimes it's happiness, like in The Pursuit of Happiness. Sometimes it's glory, like in Korsaren der Karibik. Most of the time, it's simply Victory Points, and I like to believe that that's the currency we are using in our daily routine as well, because what else is life about than victory? My score is higher than yours, by the way. I know, they are usually hidden until end-game-scoring, but I've got a good memory.
So yeah, as every good game, life is just a point-salad with loads of opportunities to increase your score. Writing a blog is pretty lucrative. This post included, I've already got 100 points from this venue alone. And I would have never known, hadn't there been so many awesome board games out there to teach me what the important thing in life is: Scoring higher than you, Adrian.


So there you have it, five simple truths that board games have taught me over time. This post concludes the first hundred posts authored by me here on the "Everything that sucks! And some things that don't."-blog. Here's to another hundred posts and then many, many more. See you soon. And see you next time on Top Five Thursday with (hopefully) a less silly topic.
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Thu May 17, 2018 7:00 am
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"Did you just call me a Kakotapl?!?"

Christian Heckmann
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...was just one of the memorable quotes coined two nights ago. After finishing a game of Ten Candles on a remote Caribbean island, surrounded by sinister cultists and their gelatinous tadpole-monsters, we decided to stay islebound a bit longer and sat down to play a game of Isla Innuenda... sorry, Isla Dorada.



Isla Dorada is a good game. Not a great one, but certainly not bad either. Unless you find constant innuendo absolutely cringeworthy, because Isla Dorada provides that aplenty. The huge erecxpedition-miniature should be a useful early warning about what you're getting yourself into. Seriously, something like that can't be a coincidence. But it doesn't stop there. I dare anyone to play this game and to NOT get into the groove of talking about a swollen Qualtops, your annual Balabatung, a chronic Methritis (which could lead to a nasty Septris if you're not careful) or perhaps discovering each other's Hora-Pena for some Kilitiping and a bit of sweet, sweet Vanu-Tabu among the dunes. Sounds Wahi-Waha to me...



The gameplay? Yeah'salright. It's fun, sure, although it's a game like Kreml, where you could leave the gaming table after finishing the setup and only return once it's over and it could be possible that you'd win the whole thing. Just for fun, I might add a dummy to the game the next time I play with less than a full compliment and see how the non-player did at the end of the game. But if the endless innuendo doesn't keep you engaged and entertained, the constant schadenfreude of screwing with someone completely by accident could do it for you. In this particular game, another player was hell-bent on taking the route from Methritis (is that infectious?) to Septris (you might wanna have a doctor take a look at this...) and I teamed up with him, adding my single Yak to his sizable bid. And then, once the whole thing was decided and we were on our way to Septris, I went "I'm sorry, but we're not stopping here today" and played Sangaia, so our journey continued to Hora-Pena, to which the other player replied with a very rude statement and a curse-card for that location. It's the little things that make this game worthwhile.

I know that some people absolutely abhor this game, but I for one am always glad to play it. This time, I was even awarded the victory with 52 points, my first victory ever in Isla Dorada, if I remember correctly. Yey me.

Anyway, looks like this was my 99th post on this blog. So I guess that the next one needs to be an especially memorable one. Oh what should I do? Always those decisions...
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Tue May 15, 2018 12:58 pm
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Reviewing... Carnivàle Season 1

Christian Heckmann
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The "Three things you should know"-stuff didn't really work out like I had hoped it would. Which is of course Merriam Webster's fault, not mine. How dare they pick Words of the Day that I can't use in order to recommend random stuff? Don't they know that they assumed responsibility when I chose them to provide me with topics without their knowledge? Amateurs.

Anyway, I still feel the itch of occasionally talking about... well... stuff. So why should I constrain myself artificially? No more, I say. Gone is "Three things you should know", from now on it'll be replaced by "Reviewing stuff", a series of posts where I will review stuff. Today's topic:

Carnivàle Season 1



Did you watch Carnivàle back in the day? I didn't. I wasn't a big fan of serialised television back then and it also wasn't that easy to get a hold of that particular series here in Germany at that time. I also didn't know it existed. But as time went by and streaming services and boxed sets made it easier to enjoy tv shows at your own pace, I grew to like the concept and after catching up on Twin Peaks and American Gothic, I was looking for something new to explore. Carnivàle seemed obvious due to its setting and themes.

The show tells the story of chain gang escapee Ben Hawkins who joins a travelling carnival and starts having dreams and visions of Justin Crowe, a Methodist preacher with whom he seems to share some kind of connection. Based on this setup, Carnivàle turns into a mythologically infused ensemble piece, not only focused on Ben and Justin but also on the people surrounding them and their own lives, agendas and tribulations. People have compared it to Twin Peaks, but I think this comparison stems mainly from Michael J. Anderson, Twin Peaks' Man From Another Place, playing a significant role in Carnivàle. No, there really isn't that much overlap between those two (except for equally convoluted mythologies), while Twin Peaks is a uber-melodramatic soap-opera-parody with a few weird, trippy ideas added into the mix, Carnivàle is a grim, sometimes downright depressing and for all its fluff pretty straightforward tale of a battle between good and evil in a rather unlikely setting.

Which was a blessing and a curse for the show at the same time. A blessing because it still looks fantastically cinematic, having been shot predominantly on location with historically accurate production design, a large cast of characters and impeccable scenography. A curse because the immense costs (around two million dollars per episode... seems really rather moderate when compared to modern juggernauts like Game Of Thrones) led to the cancellation of the show after the second season. Which doesn't mean that you shouldn't risk an eye on what there is of Carnivàle simply because it is (and will most likely forever stay) unfinished. No, even in its current state, it is absolutely worth seeking out.

The first season might feel a bit disjointed at times but that is only to be expected of a show with such an impressive scope. Esepcially since the show itself uses exposition very sparsely. Characters are rarely formally introduced, you're just presented with a vast array of different people and only time will tell which ones are more and wich ones are less important for the general proceedings of the story (the Dreyfuss-family for example, mere bit-players for the first half of the season, become very suddenly incredibly important), which manages to lend the series itself some believabilty and gravitas. I mean, in real life, people don't just blurt out expository dialogue all the time simply because someone who isn't acquainted to them might be listening in. No, you do catch up fairly quickly and it's always nice to discover a new facet to a beloved character without being explicitly told that he or she is like this.

That's also mainly due to the great acting performances by pretty much everybody involved. Seriously, Clancey Brown chews so much scenery in this, it's a real shame that he isn't in higher demand these days. Michael J. Anderson is really great as well, him playing de-facto Carnivàle-leader Samson is a very different role than the one he had on Twin Peaks but he sells the heck out of it. Adrienne Barbeau, Clea DuVall and Patrick Bauchau are also great, as is to be expected, but for me, the real breakout star of the ensemble would be Tim DeKay of whom I wasn't really aware before watching Carnivàle (although it was nice to see him again in Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). He is great as Clayton Jones, former Baseball-player, right-hand-man to Samson and tough guy with his heart in the right spot. Oh, and say what you will about Nick Stahl, but he's really great as an anti-social, over-the-hill guy. I'm not sure whether that's a compliment or an insult...

So yeah, if you like the setting and themes and don't feel offended by a show that tackles religion in a rather ambivalent way, you owe it to yourself to check out the first season of Carnivàle. It looks great, it is well paced, it is cleverly written and has lots of interesting characters to boot. Yeah, the mythology is a bit convoluted (so convoluted in fact that it has its own Wikipedia-article) but even if you don't get all of the bits and pieces that are hinted at all throughout the series, you can get a kick out of it.
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Mon May 14, 2018 3:27 pm
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