Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I know when to eat crow...I guess. Guild Wars 2 taught me

Eating crow: Eating crow is a U.S. colloquial idiom, meaning humiliation by admitting wrongness or having been proved wrong after taking a strong position.

So a few posts ago I ripped on the giddy Guild Wars 2 fanboys and their ilk. I told them to take it easy and just please be quiet about yet ANOTHER fantasy MMO that was being launched. I am jaded. Until Secret World, which was a half hearted attempt to like on my end, I was convinced that nothing new could be done. 

Seen it all. Been there done that. I didn't have faith in Arena Net. I didn't really like Guild Wars. I mean it was ok but I had moved on to other games to really get into it. I didn't like the solo type instancing and the level cap and the PVP and I had just written off Guild Wars 2. In fact I paid it no attention. Yes for the most part I was not informed on GW2. So my fault on that end.

Now mind you I had logged about 12 hours in WoW, 8 hours in Secret World and over 31 hours in Minecraft this month. That is the trend we were seeing. I was just burned out. Minecraft was giving me more bang for the buck at 25 dollars than any recent AAA MMO title (it still does for the most part. It is my second most played game..ever).

After the burn I had taken on Star Wars the Old TORTANIC I was really done with MMO's. The Secret World was a breath of fresh air but GenCon, boardgaming and other TV shows really pulled me out of it. This was a bad sign that I didn't take the game's endgame or leveling seriously because well....there are no levels. I didn't feel a sense of progress. I am old school, I need levels. 

So on a whim I decided to pick up Guild Wars 2. Partly because we had about 15 people on our Gaming Geeks Facebook page forming a guild and partly because well...pre launch hysteria got the best of me and I started watching this series of videos on YouTube devoted to the game:

From there I did more research. And that is where I decided to plunk down my 50 dollars. The reasons were easy:

- No monthly fee, ever
- scaled leveling
- auto zone level scaling for easy back grouping with friends
- dynamic events
- small action bars not littered with tons of stupid ass skill buttons
- no more holy trinity in grouping
- crafting that actually helped
- gathering, event and exploring XP
- personal stories that are soloable
- A 2 week event in PVP like the old Alterac Valley back in the good old days. Sign me up!
- Separate mechanics for underwater combat, no drowning. Yay!
- There is a Guild Head site! http://www.guildhead.com/
- Training bots in the PVP training zone. Yes actual bots (one for each profession) that you can fight against and practice on in the PVP area. Not target dummies...actual BOTS that fight back.

The list goes on, but these are the things that as I play I find I like. Other little things also rock like having bank access AT THE CRAFTING STATION, easy waypoints to move around the map and travel, group buffs for people not in your group, no racing for gathering nodes, 3 ways to do each dungeon instance and more.

So it was to my surprise that when the game's head start went live last weekend I loved what I was playing. 

28 HOURS LATER I was still hooked and playing every chance I could. That is 28 hours in 3 days and while that is nothing for hard core levelers, that is more than Secret World and World of Warcraft combined for me in the past month. I had not bought Mists of Pandaria yet. I was holding off. I don't think I will buy it. Guild Wars 2 is NOTHING like Guild Wars 1 and has taken me totally by surprise. It also is very clever and has several sweet little hidden secrets about it.

In past few days I have gotten free skill points by battling a bear Shaman master, defeating people in brawls, and have even taken part in the Guild Wars 2 built in game of Keg Brawl. In Keg Brawl, located in the Norn capital of Hoelbrak, you attempt to take a keg and run it to your team's collector and score a point. The first team to 11 wins. During the run you can stomp, kick and punch the keg holder to get him to drop it so you can pick it up and attempt to score.

I could spend hours in game doing that alone. In fact it is better than the 500 million dollar Star Wars fail that was Old Republic's Huttball.

The best thing about Guild Wars 2 is that it REWARDS you for doing everyday things like no other MMO I have played. Daily achievements give you actual decent XP. EVERYTHING you do gives you achievements and the game rewards you well for exploring and finding those waypoints all over Tyria. You also get achievements each day for killing 10 different mobs or gathering. These are daily so you can log in and work them at your leisure.

And crafting...oh my. It gives decent XP and is fun. You need to make many small components again and can get salvage kits like in Guild Wars 1 to break down things you dont need. Gathering nodes are unique to you. So even if someone runs to a ore mine and grabs it you can still take whacks on it. You can also chop down trees and gather food for the Chefs in your guild to make buffing items. 

Are there some downsides? Of course. The game's combat is heavily oriented toward Area of Effect damage. This is all fine and good when you are in a small group but when you are a melee and doing events or rushing in all hell breaks loose. I cannot for the life of me figure out where I am in the middle of explosions, disease clouds or ground slams going off. At that point it just becomes me spamming buttons and hoping I am facing the right way. In the future they will need to add some sort of spell effect graphical turn off. It is just too much right now. 

There are several guild roster, party and in game auction house bugs as well that I do not figure to be straightened out anytime soon. Especially with the FULL launch coming the 28th. 

There are a myriad of skills for each class (sorry PROFESSION). Each class has different skills depending on what weapon they are holding. While this is pretty sweet it is also very in depth and confusing. All I can say is that ALT time for me will be limited. I have narrowed my two favorites to a hammer weilding warrior and a dagger wielding thief for now. But I also want to experiment with a Necromancer and a Guardian.

The item store. Don't get me started. Baseball caps and aviator glasses for a fantasy game? Really? Dumb dumb dumb. I choose to ignore it but you know it will start cropping up around cities with people dancing on street corners. WHY ARE THESE ITEMS IN THERE?

There are no tanks per se in this game either. You have Guardians but they work on defensive buffs and keeping people alive by preventing damage. There are no taunts that I know of. This may take some getting used to. 

I would say that ranged characters have an advantage right now but it is early for me and I suck at PVP so I am not one to judge. I only know that in World vs World PVP you can fire cannons, use battering rams and other siege weapons for the full on experience. 

The level cap is level 80 and while this may look daunting it is a scaling cap in that the experience you need to get from 20-21 will be the same for 79-80. 

If you are high level and go back to meet a level 5 friend, you are reduced to that level while in that zone automatically. No mentoring needed. All of this was thought out ahead of time. 

These are the little features that so many other new MMO's do not even ship with. Arena Net did their homework and as far as I can tell are the first designers to do so by launch date.

Don't forget to explore also. I spent my entire night last night getting half a level just finding waypoints and vistas. One vista led to a high platform overlooking a cliff with a diving board. If you approached the diving board the game actually let you put on swim trunks, get a speed boost and launch off the board into the open air and then a free fall to the water below. Simply awesome.

I may not be the fastest leveler but at least in this game exploring and finding things pays off. To say I have been taken by surprise is understating the obvious. I will eat crow...this time...and admit that Guild Wars 2 is a solid hit.

Also I highly suggest if you have a mobile device to download this application and use it constantly:


I have found it to be indispensable. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Touch of Evil: Shadowbrook succumbs to the Scarecrow

This was my third game of Touch of Evil by Flying Frog Productions.


The villain this time terrorizing the quaint town of Shadowbrook was the Scarecrow. We were playing the BASIC version of the game so he only used the green power listed on his card. Unfortunately for us going in we didn't know how demoralizing this would be later on.

Basically the Scarecrow gains power and health as the game goes on. As the Darkness Track counts down he gets more and more powerful. Since we play the co-op version of the game he already has his hit points multiplied by however many heroes there are. In this case 2 so he started at 10 hp's.

As the game went on he managed to sway one town elder to his side and that buffed him even further. In the co-op game as the Darkness Track goes down he gets bonuses anyway and that coupled with his power had him at almost 20 hit points and 12 attack dice by the end of the game. Very very nasty.

The heroes we were playing were the Scarlet Shadow and Isabella Von Took. We used the wrong miniature for Isabella. One thing I hate is it is hard to tell what miniature is what unlike Wrath of Ashardalon which labels them on the bottom.

We used one board this time around, the base board that comes with the game. However we had mixed in Event, Town and Mystery cards from Something Wicked, both Hero Packs and some promo cards we got at Gen Con 2012.

The best part of this game is the randomness of the Town Elders. These are people that are well respected in the community of Shadowbrook but each has a hidden dark secret revealed as you play the game. These are random each time too. You spend investigation points to learn these secrets and you do so because at the end of the game, when you track the villain to his lair, you can bring two Town Elders to join you. Only problem is some of them may switch to the darkside and you need to know this before you select them because they may end up buffing the Villain.

During this game we found out the following:

Doctor Manning was a bumbling fool. Though wary of the Scarecrow terrorizing the town, he was not careful and was killed in a most "horrible way."

Lady Hanbrook was a Revolutionary War criminal but could be trusted to help us.

Magistrate Kroft was a peeping Tom pervert but he also could be trusted. 

Sadly on turn one, Lord Hanbrook turned out to be working secretly with the Scarecrow and turned evil, running off to his secret lair and joining him in rampaging about the countryside murdering people.

Our problems just multiplied as the game went on. Due to some bad card draws the Darkness Track kept creeping down and down and down. This buffed the Scarecrow to near super villain status and we knew that we had to make our move QUICK and attack him before he was too strong. Several events like Harvest Wind and many many attacks by Crows had us reeling late into the game and before we knew it the track was one away from buffing the Scarecrow to +4 in both his stats (combat and wounds).

We got as strong as we could by visiting the Blacksmith and buying some weapons and armor, I then paid the investigation and low and behold we tracked the Scarecrow to the Fields. That seemed almost too fitting to be true.

Isabella joined me and we took our two Town Elders, one apiece, and charged into the Scarecrows lair.

We managed to put about 11 wounds on him until a Town Elder was killed during the final showdown. This caused the Darkness Track to flip to the next stage and further buffed the Scarecrow with 4 more combat dice. As we played our last bag of tricks as far as event cards and the like he slowly started to pummel us. At this point we sent Sophie the Town Elder back to town before she died and Isabella was knocked unconscious. The rule in co-op is that if BOTH heroes are ever in a KO'd state you lose immediately. I knew I had to escape the combat so I got out of the lair barely living.

Next turn the Scarecrow healed 5 wounds and we knew that he was out of reach of destroying. Although we killed his evil minion Lord Hanbrook we knew that there was no hope in defeating him. During the middle of the night we left Shadowbrook to its own demise. We felt like cowards sure but we knew we would be back to fight another day.

For our next game the expansion Something Wicked will be used and we will add another board. Rumor has it there is a Necromancer in town raising the dead and causing havoc. This must be investigated!

Gen Con 2012 tips and tricks

I will spare most of you the typical Gen Con wrap up article and just talk about all the gaming I crammed into 2 days. Typically I go more prepared than I did this year. The usual goal is to pre register, buy event tickets and be ready way beforehand by getting all that done sometime in February or even January.

This year's Gen Con trip was spur of the moment but even with a last minute decision to go we still had a blast. We booked a room about 12 miles outside the city that was very cheap. That is where the Con gets ya is the hotel fees. We then simply got a Two Day badge (or in this case to save money one Saturday badge and then a Sunday "family" badge). After that we simply drove in and parked in the Circle Mall garage for 20 bucks a day and saved a ton of money. A usual 3 day stay would cost well over 500 bucks. We came out smelling like roses at a 157 or so. However...not being connected to the Con via walkway or nearby downtown hotel can really limit gaming time.

One thing is most garages close at 2am. If you are any sort of serious Gen Con attendee you know damn well you will not be in bed at 2am or wanting to leave. Especially with all the open gaming going on. So that forces you to be out before the garage shuts down.

 Secondly you have to remember to bring a lot of stuff with you each day and there is no going back once you do. Plus if you buy a lot of things you need to either truck em back to your car or deal with carrying them around. The key is to visit the Exhibit hall one day one, get your things and then get out then proceed on to the demo ballrooms or get your events lined up and game the rest of the weekend. We got 8 generic tickets with our badge purchase and we put them to good use.

Here is a hint: on Sundays a lot of people just do not feel like showing up for games they signed up for. Get some generic tickets and simply walk around the board game hall and look for lonely game company employees that had no one show up for the game they were supposed to play. Case in point Runewars for us on Sunday. Not one person showed so we used a generic ticket sat down, met a FFG employee and played some Runewars. In general I usually spend most of my time in the Pathfinder Hall or the Boardgame Hall meeting people and playing full games I signed up for.

 Now on to the Exhibition Hall DEMOS I tried. Yes DEMOS. These are the times when you sit down and learn a new game or, if curious about a game, see how it works before deciding to buy. I managed to play a slew of excellent games that I had been dying to try and that includes Relic from FFG, Mice and Mystics from Plaid Hat Games, Conquest of the Planet Earth expansion from Flying Frog as well as Touch of Evil. Touch of Evil had me very curious and I spent well over an hour playing the game with ALL 3 expansions laid out in front of me. The consensus at that point was that I liked it so much I needed to have ALL of it. And that is what I did:

I wont go into a review here but consider it a game that evokes Horror, Supernatural tales, and oozes theme.  After all if you went and you were curious why the hell didn't you sit and play it? I don't need to go into details. If you want to know more check out the game here:

Secondly I played Relic and Mice and Mystics. Again I won't go into details you either played em or don't care. Relic is FFG's Warhammer 40k offering using a Talisman like system. Many changes have been made including Character development and new combat methods like exploding 6's to make this a must have purchase for any 40k Universe fan. Also you are not giving money to the garbage that is Games Workshop so feel free to purchase and enjoy. 

Mice and Mystics was game number 2 I was dying to try and it did not disappoint. The chaps over at Plaid Hat have hit a home run with this title and you can pre order it now for 25 dollars off if you get it from their website. 

The game's story telling, flavor and random scenarios really set the mood and the mechanics are great. 

I also played Zombicide and came away totally UNIMPRESSED. Talk about a game that has been over hyped. Stick with Last Night on Earth instead and the new expansion for that one Timber Lake (which adds character experience and more).

Other than that I wandered the Hall day one, played things, scoffed at other things and generally had a blast. The Con never disappoints but I missed those 2 extra days of gaming and movie watching I could have had. Next year its back and doing it right. Attached Hotel, loads of gaming and scant few hours of sleep. By the way Sunday was FAIL this year: it was double crowded due to the Family package badges. So next year I will probably just leave early Sunday and skip that day altogether.

To see ALL my 100+ photos take a look at my FLICKR page here:

A sneak peek for you:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Zombies and Pandas

Couple things worth noting before I head off to Gencon 2012.

Zombicide has iPad application support now.

The World of Warcraft trailer for Mists of Pandaria is out. While the game is not as exciting as the trailers anymore at least the CGI kicks major ass!


Check out this Tweet Pic from D6 Generation:

Now on to the World of Warcraft Trailer:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rare sports break: Olympic pouting

I know I know. About half of you fellow gaming nerds out there just clicked off my page but I felt that in this time of the Olympic spirit one had to see the website below.

Founded off the rather cold reception silver medalist McKayla Maroney gave her fellow competitors on the medal stand after she screwed up her vault this website has her smug pose inserted in common everyday scenes. And apparently she is rather unimpressed.

So ends this sports break. Click the link below for hilarity.


Crabby Old Gamer knows that she, along with a lot of disgruntled ex employees, is unimpressed with Games Workshop

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Talisman Tuesday

Lately all my gaming titles and days of the week have been rhyming or alliterative so I might as well continue the trend.

After recent addictions to Arkham Horror and Wrath of Ashardalon/Legend of Drizzt I took a break Tuesday to head to the Wandering Dragon and get some casual gameplay of Talisman in. I was off Wednesday and figured Tuesday night would be the best time. Forgot however that the local town the store is in hosts a Cruise Nights there but luckily parking was ample. Every suburban town across the country now some sort of old car theme night downtown and it just so happens that Plainfield's falls on a Tuesday. In Lemont it is on a Wednesday.

I haven't played Talisman in well over 8 years so I had to read the rulebook and get familiar with everything again. A lot of people criticize it for being too random. I do have a lot of expansions for the game (The Highlands, Frost March and Dungeon) but this was to be a straight out regular base game.

I picked the Elf for his ability to move around the board quickly (woods to woods etc etc) and my friend picked the Thief.

They say Talisman is more fun with at least 3 people but I really didn't mind it too much. I can see however that with one person getting behind it can be tough to catch up thus forcing you to really hope for bad luck on the opponent. Unfortunately in this game the bad luck came my way for the most part which is no surprise.

Right off the bat  in about turn three the Thief landed on my space and took the only item I had managed to loot which was a +1STR/+1Craft ring. Basically in Talisman Strength is for hand to hand combat and Craft is for magic and mental combat. In Talisman you MUST move each turn so I was unable to attack him that turn.

We managed to get a few nasty monsters out on the board (TWO Ogres at one point) and a Witch that caused me all sorts of problems.

The Thief jumped out to a really big head start in terms of gear, money and getting to the middle region of the board. Even when drawing a Strength 10 Demon in the middle area, he had an invisibility potion to easily evade the combat.

As for myself, I landed on the Witch and rolled a 1, which of course turned me into a Toad putting me turns behind the Thief. When a Toad you move 1 and drop all your things in the square where you were turned into a toad.

After three turns I turned back into my Elf self and moved to get my things. I landed on the Witch and again ROLLED A ONE. After being the Toad again for another 3 turns I was way behind. If this had been with more players I am sure someone would have landed on my spot and taken my things. The Thief had a Talisman and was working his way toward the Crown of Command, in the center, the object of victory.

The next turn I simply decided to use the Destruction Spell I was saving and I blasted that damn Witch off the board.

Even though the Wandering Dragon stayed open late for us, we just did not have enough time to finish the game. The very random nature of the movement and the fact that you can be set back to the outer region makes a game of Talisman very long unless you have characters that can move around the board in a non die rolling manner.

The Thief was well ahead and so we simply declared him the winner. This is an early photo but later on he had a Strength well up over 6 and was working toward the inner area:

Next up will be Talisman with the Dungeon Expansion added onto the gameboard:

Players can enter the Dungeon through the Ruins on the board, and then specific Dungeon encounter cards are used while they are in there. There is a Dungeon boss that can award a Talisman as well as many other cool things in there.

Overall this is a very relaxing game and good for players when they want to take a break from the strategies and brain melting concentration of the deeper games. With all the expansions comes a wealth of characters as well so the options are going to last for months.

Now if only my luck would change.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wrath of Ashardalon/Legend of Drizzt blitz

Lots of playtime on the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System boardgames this past week. Wednesday night at Wandering Dragon with a couple of friends netted a victory for us in a party featuring a Dwarf Warrior, an Elf Paladin and a Human Cleric.

This game came down to the wire. The scenario was a standard hunt 12 monsters game featuring all the tiles and cards from Ravenloft and Ashardalon mixed into a giant stack.

This game came down to the very last sword swing. Literally. We had only two healing surges, all of them used, and we had a man down and out who had the next turn which would have meant a loss. Luckily we were one monster away and on the last swing of the axe the Dwarf Warrior cut the beast down and we won. A true nailbiter for sure. No one leveled and I had yet to see anyone do it UNTIL...

Bring on the weekend. Had another buddy come over and we once again had a 3 way game session. We fit in two games over the span of 4 hours or so this time a custom homebrew scenario that I designed. Basically it involved exploring the Underdark caverns. The goal: kill 15 monsters to help clear the caves. There was a Drow presence and they were allying with goblins. I custom tailored the game as follows:

One stack of Drizzt cavern tiles and in that mix the Broken Door tile. If that was pulled we flipped over to a stack of Dungeon Tiles from Ashardalon and Ravenloft.

Each encounter deck was custom tailored as well. One deck was for the caverns only. The other deck was for the dungeon only. The monster deck was culled of all Kobolds and the like and left with no Orcs, a lot of Goblins and some Drow as well as creatures and Undead. On hindsight I would probably have taken the Undead out as we did not draw enough Drow cards to make it feel "Underdarky". We pulled a lot of Goblins and odd creatures but not enough Drow.

All character classes were allowed, we had 3 healing surges and we mixed all Class skills together.

The tiles looked as follows:

We started in the Caverns on the Drizzt starting tile. There were no special chambers except the secret cave tile and some bridges and the like. I also cut back on the number of Volcanic Vent tiles.

In game 1 we took the barbarian Wulfgar, Bruenor and the rogue Kat. This game was rough and traps really played a number on us. We were out healing surges with 13 of 15 monsters killed and just could not keep up the healing. We lost and this was my first loss in the Adventure System games I had suffered.

We reshuffled, redrew and started over for game two and this time dropped Wulfgar and took a dwarf cleric played by Crabby Old Gamer.

I played the rogue again and things started off the worst possible way they could have. Immediately two tiles in I was assaulted by web traps, spiders and drawn into immobilization and poison right off the bat. I was killed and down in a matter of 15 minutes. One healing surge down and I was back up. We were down to two and started to explore the dungeon. A few acidic traps and volcanic vents plus a wraith and a flaming skeleton eventually killed the cleric.Two healing surges gone very early but we were up to around 10 monsters out of the 15 we needed.

My rogue's layout:

Our last death came around the 12 monster mark and we were out of healing surges and pretty beat  up when we managed to draw a Secret Cave tile. This proved to be the thing that helped us the most. Since you do not draw encounters here you can literally rest and regroup. However if you have the right cleric, one that can do one point heal each turn if he does not attack, you can fully heal your group by basically standing there. This tactic would not have worked if not for the cleric we had picked so there is no use complaining that its a cheat or instant win gimmick.

Once healed we needed 2 more monsters so we had to set out and explore some more to spawn some creatures. I actually also leveled up my rogue for the SECOND time in two games and was now level 2 and killing things quite nicely with thrown daggers.

We venture out and by now our map had become quite big:

The game was still down to the wire. Fully healed we drew a Goblin Archer, a ghoul and another Wraith. The cleric took down the Wraith but I was stuck south with the Warrior and we were in intense combat to kill the last creatures. We were rolling 1's, 5's, 10's and 3's and missing each turn. Then we got poison arrowed and started to lose health. Luckily with a strike of his hammer the Cleric killed the wraith and we were at 15/15 and we had won what was one of the toughest dungeon crawls I had been in.

For me this series of games captures many things I wanted the Descent series to be. I love the cop op and the random generation and the fact that with all 3 boardgames you have what amounts to a Dungeon Creation Kit right in your living room. We have not even tackled any of the scenarios yet as every game has been a monster hunt done with random tiles.

We never found the Dungeon entrance so in hindsight I would definitely cut back on the number of cavern tiles so that we could find the dungeon proper a lot quicker. I may make this into a campaign that focuses on stopping a Goblin/Drow alliance in the underground. 

Overall some of the best boardgaming I have had in a while and cannot wait to dig into the scenarios and use some of the player created content and campaigns.

The details on the models are awesome. And they wont break or break your wallet like Games Workshop's "FineShitCast":