Showing posts with label Games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Games. Show all posts

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Is That The Best You Can Do? Card Game - Review by SE

 "Is That The Best You Can Do?"
Free Market Kids delivers a solid card with "Is That The Best You Can Do?"

It is inspired to teach basics of financial literacy and negotiating skills, but it's fun whether or not you care about learning. It is as easy as Uno... but totally different.

The games works with three people, but works best with four or more for the negotiations to get exciting. It is excellent for family gatherings, home schooling, or class settings. A match runs about 30-45min, but a single ~5min round can be fun and full of teachable moments.

High quality materials, art, and design produced this Deluxe version. The box is like a book that can be stored like one. A magnetic closure/top is slick .  The currency, core to the game, are translucent, poker-sized "crypto-currency"---they are fun to hold and durable.



Each player takes 7 Supply/Demand cards. Then the negotiations start.  One player begins by offering to sell or buy an item (all are Sci Fi based.... like flying cars, robot dogs, alien chess, etc.).  Then... the others chime in. Some will want to buy, and others enter as competitive sellers.  Everyone has different goals (ie buy-for-less-than OR sell-for-more-than).

Pairs negotiate, come to a price, and are awarded the difference between their card value and the end-price.  Then they replenish their deck of 7.

It is easy, but different than most buying-trading games. Only takes a minute to pick up.

To add spice and learn more, there are Market Cards. Instead of replenishing one's deck with Supply or Demand cards, one can pick a Market card that introduces one-time events; there are 9 flavors (ie everyone holding a Robot Dog gets taxed! Or arbitrage is enabled, so you can buy/sell to yourself...and seven more events).

Free Market Kids are going to spring board off this, as they are preparing lesson plans and game-add-ons to stimulate learning. I suspect they will create a basic (non Deluxe) set that just has the basic cards and will cost less.


Game Overview

 

Set up

   

 Negotiations

 

 Market Cards

 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"Zagor Chronicles: Firestorm" - Obscure, Awesome Arcana for RPG-philes

Firestorm (The Zagor Chronicles, #1)Firestorm by Ian Livingstone
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Obscure, Awesome Arcana for RPG-philes: Firestorm is very dark (authentically “grimdark” in fact as discussed below), young-adult fantasy infused with RPG/Warhammer history. The pace is ridiculously epic, belying the purpose of the first book: introduce four adventures and the titular antagonist, Zagor. The heores are the trope-typical band of four: Braxus the Warrior ; Anvar the Barbarian; Stubble the beardless Dwarf; a female wizard Jallarial. In the span of every few pages, armies are introduced and destroyed; global swathes of destruction and conflict occur constantly; giant monsters come, kill, and then are thwarted or left to destroy. Very intense. The action is so fast and compact, that it is difficult to keep pace especially if the reader is not familiar with the series. For instance, the “Casket of Souls” artifact plays a key role in this book; but without reading the other books in the franchise, the reader would never know why it is suddenly introduced and used. Die-hard RPG would devour this, if they can track it down. It shows the evolution from Fighting Fantasy into the Warhammer games.

Fighting Fantasy – RPG gamebooks and Warhammer: My gateway into the Sword & Sorcery genre was most likely the Fighting Fantasy books (choose-your-own-adventures + dice) created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone in the early 1980's (Games Workshop founders; these two would then co-found Warhammer). Before personal computers & smart phones could satiate the need for solo adventuring on the go, these books rocked. They were full of disturbing illustrations that still haunt me to this day. Interestingly, select ones (like Warlock of Firetop Mountain and Steve Jackson’s Sorcery) are now available on Kindle from Worldweaver and iTunes by Tinman games. The tablet evolution has revitalized these game books, check them out! Ostensibly marketed toward the young adult crowd, these are full of darkness. The artwork of the Games Workshop has always been top notch.

Kickstarter Reveals The Grimdark History: Jonathan Green, author of many novels including those under the Warhammer and Fighting Fantasy brands, recently (2014) led a Kickstarter campaign to create a history book detailing how these adventure books evolved. This 2012 effort was successful, and the print and eBook copies are now available. The resulting book You are the Hero (YATH) is 272 pages of illustrated goodness, with insights from authors, publishers, and artists. John Blanche, currently Games Workshop’s art director and “the man responsible for coming up with the look of the worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000” (p45 YATH) explicitly addresses the evolution of Grimness:
“The FF books were the early thoughts about fantasy needing to be dark and grim that became more fully developed in the worlds of Warhammer – and it is still happening today. The punk thing is a tribal street visual that pervades all history as far back as you wish – it’s a hint of shamanism, tribalism, barbarism, etc. People relate to that in a very enthusiastic manner. Fantasy is not about fairies and golden knights but about guys with shaved heads and zombies and a multitude of macabre horrific nastiness.” (p52, You Are The Hero, 2014)

The origin of Grimdark chronicled: Many cite Grimdark’s name as being evolved from the tagline of Game’s Workshop’s sci-fi brand of fiction/games: Warhammer 40,0000. The tagline follows: "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” Of course, GW also produces the fantasy Olde World line up too (medieval fantasy). Check out GW’s Black Library for their books. So before Warhammer 40,0000, what did GW produce? What spawned this tagline of Grim Darkness? The answer: Fighting Fantasy. Its development is chronicled in a new book, and the series has been revived in App/eBook form. Reading You are the Hero alerted me to awesome evolution of Zagor, the warlock in the first The Warlock of Firetop Mountain gamebook. Diehard Grimdark aficionados will hunt down The Zagor Chronicles.

Darth Maul , Zagor and Iain McCaig : Before designing the iconic Darth Maul for Starwars Episode I: The Phantom Menance, Iain McCaig had a lengthy collaboration with Ian Livingstone. Darth Maul is actually evolved from a cover from the FF series #5 City of Thieves. As the FF universe grew, they made a new type of puzzle book in which reader had to decipher a hidden spell from illustrations Casket of Souls (the casket has since become part of the Tomb King artifacts in Warhammer). Sallazar the Wizard is the narrator of “Casket” and his history becomes intertwined with several heroes in Firestorm and that of Zagor the necromancer.

In the Legend of Zagor, readers can “become” one of 4 heroes which they can read in the novel Firestorm: featured are the main heroes in Firestorm....Braxus the Warrior ; Anvar the Barbarian; Stubble the beardless Dwarf; Sallazar the Wizard (in Firestorm, Sallazar is replaced with a female wizard Jallarial).

Key Books in the history of ZAGOR:
Fighting Fantasy (Dice and paper) gamebooks re: Zagor
1982 - The Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone
1992- Return to Firetop Mountain
1993 -Legend of Zagor
1987 Illustrated gamebook Casket of Souls

Zagor Chronicles:
1993 Firestorm
1993 Darkthrone
1994 Skullcrag
1994 Demonlord
Firestorm (The Zagor Chronicles, #1) by Ian Livingstone Darkthrone (The Zagor Chronicles, #2) by Ian Livingstone Skullcrag (The Zagor Chronicles, #3) by Ian Livingstone Demonlord (The Zagor Chronicles, #4) by Ian Livingstone


View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Jonathan Green seeks support for Fighting Fantasy


Just participated in my first Kickstarter project. This is a great tool/resource to fund independent moves, games, books, etc.


My gateway into the Sword & Sorcery genre was most likely the Fighting Fantasy books (choose-your-own-adventures + dice) created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone in the early 1980's (these two would then co-found Warhammer). Before personal computers could satiate the need for solo adventuring on the go, these books rocked. They were full of disturbing illustrations that still haunt me to this day (see blogpost on evolving Fighting Fantasy books). Interestingly, select ones (like Warlock of Firetop Mountain) are now available on Kindle and iTunes (the Kindle versions are less sexy but work better, having provided a more robust game mechanic that includes superior mapping and dice roller systems).

Jonathan Green, author of many novels including those under the Warhammer and Fighting Fantasy brands, is now on a mission to create a history book detailing how the adventure books evolved.  See the video below (embedded here). Or go to Kickstarter directly and consider donating to the cause: You Are The Hero Kickstarter Page ... donate ~$16 and you will get a PDF of the book.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Dejarnette Sanitarium; a vacation to Silent Hill?

 Silent Hill (SH) Ambiance – Benchmark Design
Just vacationed with the family, the key destination being the natural dye making workshop in Monticello, Virginia (to boost my dye making hobby--Link).  After traveling through the Appalachian Mountains and renting a hotel overlooking an abandoned Sanitarium, I began to feel the “Silent Hill” experience. 

Although not a proper Sword & Sorcery world, SH allows for an awesome degree of supernatural exploration– a feature once integral to the originating pulps that inspired the genre (Howard, Smith, Lovecraft); the Hill does have the prerequisite elements: ruins, creatures, alchemy (witchcraft).  The series sacrifices some action elements to amplify the horror of battling the unknown.  It grounds readers in abandoned towns filled with ghosts, only to use that foundation as “reality” to take readers into the next level of horror (“nightmare realm”) in which the cracked paint peels of walls and flies away, and hell (in multiple carnations) overwhelms all.   Silent Hill pushes the boundaries of horror in every way, from its character designs, settings, and story.

In Silent Hill 1, I was horrified to be chased by knife-wielding dead children in the Midwich Elementary school.  But that experience pales in comparison to the debut of Pyramid Head in Silent Hill 2 (room 307 Wood Side’s apartment), in which the butcher-like-demon rapes the four-legged mannequins (that is correct…one torso, four legs).  Your character is forced to watched from within a closetthe scene is more bizarre than gory.  If Pyramid head or his victims looked more human, than the effect would be lost—that would be too real, less scary.  Silent Hill wants you to feel vulnerable and pressured by forces you cannot describe.  The fantasy element is crucial.  The balance of implicit vs. explicit gore and horror is tough to achieve, but we can learn from masters Like Frazetta (link to earlier post). 

Room 307 of Wood Side apartments: Pyramid Head rapes headless mannequins in Silent Hill 2 game–very spooky


The 2006 movie's version town of Silent Hill is located in West Virginia. The town was abandoned after a fire started in the underlying coal mines, much like the real town of Centralia, PABasing fantasy from real foundations gives our art credibility; the story way be weird as hell, but will be believable at some level.  Suckers like myself cannot stop thinking about the possible truth to ghost stories when they experience settings that evoke the haunts:
The Appalachian Mountains
The below aerial imagery from the Silent Hill movie shows a road in the Appalachian Mountains; in the leading car are a mom (Rose Da Silva) and daughter (Sharon), driving toward the titular town to confront the haunts that plague Sharon’s dreams. A police car follows.
silent Hill -2
Our recent drive through West Virginia (our images below), sets the stage; map included in case you want to trek over.
P7150136P7140065
Dejarnette Sanitarium
Spooky Abandoned Hospital
So after hours of driving in the mountains, we stop at a Hotel in Staunton, VA.  Staunton is not haunted, but we unexpectedly chose a hotel overlooking a beautiful boarded building (~the intersection of highway 81 and route 250 near the Frontier Museum); From our hotel view (below, looking eastward).   
sanitarium-Staunton VA
Turns out, it this is an abandoned children’s sanitarium named after the leader Doctor DeJarnette.  Due to Doctor DeJarnette’s eugenics project, many inmates were reportedly sterilized in the basement against their will (his butchery and sexual motivations reeks of Pyramid Head).  Ghosttowninfo.com - Dejarnette Sanatarium (link) offers interior images and Project Energia Buran offers as a video tour (embedded below)! To be clear, my family did not tour the facility!  It is riddled with asbestos and is hardly a family destination.  This is not Silent Hill!  There is nothing explicitly terrifying about this image; implicitly, it is creepy as hell!


Virtual Tour of the Sanatorium
Project Energia Buran (2007) tours the Sanatorium for us!

Persistent, Amplified Silent Hill Feelings
Every SH game visits a hospital; I think every one has ghost- or living-children running amongst them.  Alchemilla Hospital (left image below) and Brookhaven Hospital (right image) are fictional hospitals that are frequently visited in the Silent Hill games. A blog post cannot due these justice…I suggest you get the games and explore them.  You will be scared…and you can pretend you are experiencing the haunted (possibly) DeJarnette Sanitarium!  Be careful.  Once you play the games, you may not be able to stop thinking about the horrors the evoke!  Awesome!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nostalgia: Fighting Fantasy Books Evolve to Kindle, PSN, and DS

  •  Before hand held electronics (early 1980's), Sword & Sorcery geeks were enthralled with choose-your-own-adventure-books with a Dungeons & Dragons style of character development and adventure (dice required, but it was still portable adventure); in 1982 the best arrived in the form of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first in a series created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston (famed originators of Games Workshop which spawned the Warhammer game system (table-top warfare) and the Black Library (awesome gritty sci-fi and fantasy).

  • The artwork of the Games Workshop empire has always been top notch.  The image below from Section 122 of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain has haunted me for two decades (artist = Russ Nicholson)! 
  • Still available by hardcopy, they are making their way in 2011 to the Playstation and the Ninendo DS, according the Fighting Fantasy website and PSPminis (PSP version to be made by Laughing Jackal). An electronic, Kindle edition is even available, which may spark a rebirth in the RPG-choose-your-own-adventure-style books as they become blended with the video-game.
  • The Kindle Active Content version (made by WorldWeaver) is well translated into the electronic form.  Several Way Points allow you to bookmark/return to sections upon untimely deaths; An automapping feature adds a new dimension to the game, tracking your progress (with options to use again in subsequent tries through the book); the battles are intense, and you even have choices on how to perform the dice rolls.  Oh...on the way is the Kindle Version of Deathtrap Dungeon!


Kindle Cover





Screen-shot of PSP version of Talisman of Death


  • On a related note, the legendary RPG for the PS-Vagrant Story (2000) is also finally becoming available for the PSP in the US this year.
  • Actually, a must-have from PSN is the already available Blood Omen Legacy of Kain (1996), the game that launched the Soul Reaver and Blood Omen series.


Blood Omen

Vagrant Story