Monday, 27 December 2010

Recent Gaming

Bastard bloody freezing in the Midlands at the moment, although as I write a mild drizzle is starting to thaw it all out. Iced-up roads near Coopdevil Towers means that I've been reduced to dumping the MX-5 on a mate's drive a good mile from my house (downhill there, very much uphill back) and having to walk there in a morning to start the commute, swinging a full kettle of hot water because that's the only way to thaw out the door hinge, glass to weatherstrip joint and lock to allow me to get in (Christmas afternoon at the parents it excelled itself by opening the drivers door and then freezing the lock mechanism solid in the three or four seconds the door was open requiring twenty minutes of waving baby sister's hairdryer at it). So I've been effectively snowed in, this being probably the worst snow in this part of Mercia since 1963, and therefore doing a lot of gaming stuff.

Christmas Eve saw a couple of games of Dungeonquest and Risk Express. I introduced the not-really-a-nephew-nephew to DQ with some trepidation as he's at an age when he tends to throw a strop when a game goes against him, so obviously HA HA FUCK YOU YOU'RE DEAD YOU TWAT might not have been the best game to play. But with Uncle Coop fucking it up early in the first game and not-really-a-nephew-nephew's Dad being shite as well he just found our misfortune much more amusing than he found his own. Having fallen down a bottomless pit in game #1 he asked after game #2 and we were packing up "Is my man still falling?" with some relish. That's my boy.

DQ is pretty old school -it's the only game I've ever played where entering a dungeon chamber and drawing a dungeon card that read "Empty" is the best thing that could possibly happen. It says a lot about it in that turns in which nothing happens are all little victories and you are grateful for them.

(Oh and, DQ veterans - Game #2, into the catacombs early doors heading towards the centre of the castle, Naga, Vampire, Giant Diamond worth 4000GP, Exit, emerge in first explored chamber, leave dungeon, laugh. Suck it up.)

Not-really-a-nephew-nephew really gets into Risk Express as well - properly vindictive little bastard he is when it comes to attacking other player's taken cards just for the hell of it. I have high hopes for him.

Tomorrow is the Stourbridge club's annual all-day gaming sesh where we hire the church hall for an entire day from club funds and club members get a free day. We are planning on going for a big battle of Star Wars Miniatures and my GW foam case is packed in readiness. This is a brilliant game, it's something of a minor tragedy that I only discovered how good it was after it was discontinued (then again if that hadn't happened, the competitive "outspent you so I win" players wouldn't have dropped it and I wouldn't have looked twice at it).

Also proving of interest because it's gone a bit low-key locally in recent times is Heroclix. It seems that every time a Saturday in which I am free to get up Waylands Forge in Brum rolls around it corresponds with Heroclix day so it's about time I pulled my finger and bought into it.

Now, Coop hates superhero media with a passion (except Batman and Watchmen, which is effectively Batman and realistic Batman) and has no interest in the comics. But having been tempted in dipping my toes in the water I have to say this is a clever game and not much is required to get up and running. Antony pointed me at the Fantastic Four starter set which has the rules, two maps and seven figures but the real beauty of it is that each member of the FF costs 100 points which makes force construction (typically 300-400 points) quite painless without being stuck with odd points left over.

Merely announcing that I'd bought the starter set saw a huge number of figures flung at me gratis so I'm looking forwards to playing this a bit more. At least until I bump up into a "outspent you so I win" player...

Most of the snowed-in days were spent in front of Fable III on the 360.

Now this is an odd game. If you follow all the signposts, and advance the plot whenever you can then the whole thing is over with 8 hours and you get a very unsatisfactory ending. Replay whilst ignoring the nagging to get on with it and you can get a perfect ending and see a million times more stuff that was off the beaten track last time around. It seems an odd design decision to throw yourself upon the mercy of games reviewers and the shrieking WORST GAME EVER internet chorus who perhaps only see one playthrough and rate accordingly.

Something I will say whilst trying to avoid spoilers is that the game must be at least started a second time. Much the dialogue in the first part of the game appears innocuous first time around but takes on a second meaning when you've already sat through the denouement of the plot.

And it's wonderfully English with Manc, Bristolian and Cockney accents all round with roles for Ben Kingsley (as a South Walian old mad bastard), Stephen Fry, Zoe Wanamaker, Sean Pertwee, Bernard Hill, Simon Pegg and what I suspect is a specially written cameo for Jonathan Ross with more words beginning with R and W than one would normally expect to find...

So loved it but only after a second play through. The writing and voice work is the best I've ever experienced in a game and the dungeons are inspirational as well - lots of multi-level structures within vast caverns or vertical shafts.

Wecommended as Wossy would say.


  1. You know, I've got a bunch of Heroclix figures knocking about and I knew from the little symbols on the bases that there was a game involved, but it's never occurred to me to try and play it.

    I have a bunch of Hulks from when there was some kind of promotion where comic shops were giving away single Hulks and I somehow ended up with loads. I was also given a bizarre boxed set of Marvel figures which seem to have no coherent theme or, for that matter, any markings on the box, all of which leads me to suspect that it's either a promotional set or a cheap knock-off.

    I've not played any of the Fable games, but I remember that Final Fantasy VIII actively punished you for taking your time and exploring, but if you rushed -- as the game prodded you to do -- you'd hit a point in the plot where you couldn't go forward because you were too weak -- because you hadn't explored and built up your strength, see -- but nor could you backtrack. Stupid game.

  2. You can get all the rules and cards for Heroclix in PDF form here (try the Blackest Night Rulebook for the most recent version).

    Ah, I'd forgotten about the horror of FF VIII until you mentioned it and I well remember the utter idiocy of punishing you for exploring - what a dreadful design decision and such a letdown after FF VII which I loved. VIII was the first game I imported, bought the US version from a mail order games place in San Fransisco as I was so keen to play it I couldn't wait for the PAL release. I remember marvelling that I had it in my hands before the official US release date :)

    Supposedly the boss battles were scaled to your current party so grinding shouldn't have mattered but in practise I just found that this scaling was all over the shop and some boss battles were nightmarish and you had no ability to strengthen to do much about it. Hated the game with a passion.

  3. Ah, thanks for that link. I'll see if any of my local gamers are interested in a bash.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who hated FFVIII. Like you, I loved VII and I was impressed with the early stages of the newer game, and that wonderful assault-on-the-school sequence, but as soon as they let you out into the open world, it all fell apart. I got stuck about halfway through, in the fight with that monster that was melded with the love interest; magic killed the girl and ended the game, but the monster was too tough to kill in melee without grinding beforehand, from which of course you were steered away.

    And then there was the Triple Triad minigame that could strip you of essential items if you played poorly. Argh.

    VIII put me off the series until some friends recommended XII, which is very good indeed, mainly because it's the complete opposite in terms of freedom, being very open and subquest-heavy.

  4. "DQ is pretty old school -it's the only game I've ever played where entering a dungeon chamber and drawing a dungeon card that read "Empty" is the best thing that could possibly happen."

    So very very true!

    "Oh and, DQ veterans - Game #2, into the catacombs early doors heading towards the centre of the castle, Naga, Vampire, Giant Diamond worth 4000GP, Exit, emerge in first explored chamber, leave dungeon, laugh. Suck it up."

    I bet you cheated.