Obrigado Futebol: The Story of Little Ant. You must read this.

25 09 2012

I don’t read many foreign language or web-comics, certainly not near as many as I’d like. They just fall under my radar most of the time. But every once in a while I get lucky. And now you are, too. Obrigado Futebol: The Story of Little Ant is a beautiful comic. Fans of Brazil, football/soccer, and comics in general will be amazed by this piece. I’m not going to spend any time telling you why; it’s a swift enough read you’ll soon find out for yourself. Enjoy.

Read me now.





There’s nothing like an August Quickie.

10 08 2012

I just made up that phrase, so I have no idea what it means either, but if you’re reading this then it did the job!

It’s hard to believe that my next Game Night review will be written in the Fall. Here at the end of what’s seemed an endlessly hot summer, I suddenly don’t want it to end. August’s Game Night was last week and it mostly left me wanting more. The expected seven were reduced by one, as Fitz suddenly had to work late. The rest of us made do without his august company, (Hey, see! I used it in a sentence! But then where does the quickie come in?) Myself, Daly, Faith, Fix, Stuart, Dav, and Mathilda, our gamer-in-training, enjoyed an old favorite, Bang!; a new favorite, Silverton; and a game that’s been burning a whole in my shelf for years now, finally hitting the game table for the first time: Citadels. While Mathilda practiced with an old deck of cards, the rest of us enjoyed Faith’s delicious chicken balls! Thanks Faith!

The rest of the group played Bang! as I sat out, attempting to refamiliarize myself with the rules for Citadels. Bang!is another in the genre of Mafia-style games, augmented with cards providing the players with various abilities. The players assume the roles of the Sheriff, some Deputies, Outlaws, and a Renegade, but only the Sheriff’s identity is known to the public. The Sheriff and Deputies must kill the Outlaws & Renegade to win, the Outlaws must kill the lawmen to win, and the Renegade only wins as the last man standing.

“I bang you!” “Nope, missed me.”

Players play “Bang!” cards to shoot at each other, augmenting their shots with other cards to give them further range with a rifle, for instance, or to dodge behind a barrel card for cover, or various other effects. In addition, each player is assigned a character, each with a unique ability. The game plays nicely and swiftly and is fun for a larger group. This time the Outlaws, Stuart & Faith, won the game.

Once they were through with that, I finally felt up to speed again on Citadels, a game I’ve owned for years but only ever played a couple times at another friend’s house a long time ago. The theme of Citadels is slightly reminiscent of Dominion, as players attempt to earn cash to purchase buildings of various point values for their town, but the gameplay is very different. Players play buildings into their city from their hand by paying the amount of cash indicated, usually between 1-6 gold. They may draw new building cards from the deck on their turn, or collect more gold from the bank. Some buildings give added benefits, such as letting you earn even more gold on your turn. But the real hook of the game is the character cards. Each round, the players shuffle the 8 character cards, discard one face down, and then take turns examining the remaining cards and selecting a character to play as for that round. (A game usually last around 10 rounds or so.) Each character grants that player a special power. Some powers are straightforward; the King always goes first and collects 1 extra gold for each yellow building in his city,

It’s good to be King.

(each building card is designated one of five different colors,) while others are malicious; the Assassin chooses another character to kill, causing them to lose their turn. The trick is that players choose their character from the remaining character cards that are handed to them from the right, always starting with the current King, (if another player chooses the King, she will pick first on the next round,) so they never know for sure who the other players are until the round begins, and even less so if they are seated several seats from the King. Really getting inside your opponents heads, trying to guess who they’d choose, and how to either attack them or defend yourself from them, based on just GUESSES, is the real meat of the game. As you can imagine, also knowing well what each character’s abilities are and how they tend to interact with each other gives you a leg up in this game. Since we were all basically new to the game, it was still a fair play, but the high advantage given to experienced players is what has soured me to this game in the past. Nevertheless, we had a fun time with it. Dav won, as is his wont, with 37 points, creaming everyone else- the next highest was Fix with 28, and Stu & I pulled up the rear with 17 & 21 points.

Finally, we ended the night with a 3-hour stretch of Silverton, the game of Colorado railroading! We first tried this out at our Hamptons Game Night and really enjoyed it. I was anxious to see how it would play with so many players. As we discovered then, while the rules initially seem complex, once you get playing, they begin making sense. Particularly enjoyable again was the market mechanism, utilizing supply & demand to drive the prices for coal, silver, gold, and lumber. As we only had 3 hours left in the night to play, we only got through something like 10 rounds, which was not nearly enough time, especially with so many players. Like Monopoly, and not in a good way*, there’s significant luck involved in getting the properties, (railroad lines & mines,) you need to earn money to progress in the game. In this case the randomness of dice rolling is replaced with card drawing. Thankfully, Silverton mitigates this luck factor; as the game goes on, each player will inevitably begin scoring railroads and mines which they are situated to take advantage of. However, this does take time and the game is supposed to be played with 24 rounds, (6 in-game years!) and is even suggested to play till 30 rounds! 9 hours is expected to be able to play a full and fair game. Despite this, the game is enjoyable, perhaps because you don’t really seem to realize how badly you are losing as much as in Monopoly. Fix won this time, with $14,600, followed by Daly at $12K, and Faith at $8,150. For a nice change of pace, Dav wasn’t even on the winners’ podium.

THIS is the board we play on, the first edition. Thankfully, the game-makers have issued a graphically improved edition, making the game much easier to follow.

As usual, Game Night this month was a big hit, chicken balls, bangs, quickies, and all. See you next month!

*IS there a good way to be like Monopoly?





I like butt nuggets!*

2 08 2012

Or so said someone at our epic Geek Weekend North: Hamptons-style! Earlier this summer, Dav, Fitz, and myself joined Fix at his parents’ summer place in the Hamptons for a weekend of games, games, beer, and more games!

Will we play them all?

Will we drink them all?

The drive out there took a few hours, so we left early on Friday and managed to arrive in time to catch Fix in the shower after his day of yardwork. We sat there ringing the doorbell for several minutes until I finally decided to begin walking around the house where I discovered Fix in the outdoor shower, blessedly with a sufficient fence surrounding it. Seeing his dripping mop of hair and goofy grin peer at us over the fence was quite a sight, and quite a fun way to begin the weekend. Being dinnertime, we fixed some food first, surprising ourselves at our collaborative culinary competence. Dinner that first night came together with flair: a nice salad, sauteed portabella & kale, & thanks to Fitz’s foresight to bring lunchmeat: sandwiches! I know it doesn’t sound like much, but just look at it!

Yum!

Finally, after feeding, we got down to the business at hand. GAMES! Dav brought an excellent new acquisition, Silverton, the game of Colorado railroading. The game seemed daunting at first, with an intricate board and complex rules, but once we got rolling, we all got into it, especially enjoying the elegant mechanics the game uses to monitor supply and demand and have the market represent appropriate prices for the riches we were supplying to the towns. I had more coal than I knew what to do with, and suffered it’s low prices throughout. Then I was shot dead. Then, when I couldn’t possibly draw *another* bad card, I got sent to jail. The town of Crusted Butt wasn’t sounding so bad. Fitz positively OWNED all the lumber in Colorado, as well as dominated the southwest, and all the players managed to get lucrative silver mines, except myself. But Dav triumphed when, in a single game-ending move, he earned $19,000 and won the game. This was a great game that I can’t wait to try again. Incidentally, there is an updated version of the game with fancier graphics, which we suppose may make the game initially easier to understand.

Notice our railroad baron pretzel-rod cigars?

Sometime between Silverton and Saturday’s epic War of the Ring we managed to squeeze in a couple light games of  Zombie Fluxx. In the first round, no one won, as the Un-Goal card came into play. And in the second Dav pulled off another slick victory.

Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful, perfect beach weather, so we decided to skip over to the bay, just a 5 minute walk around the corner, and take a refreshing morning dip… before locking ourselves back inside with stacks of cards and dice! After enjoying on the deck a delectable pancake breakfast, smothered in real maple syrup and cottage cheese, and made complete with bacon and black coffee, we began the laborious process of setting up and going over the rules for War of the Ring! An hour later, we began playing. Dav & I played as the Free Peoples of Middle Earth versus the evil might of the forces of Darkness, as commanded by the Black Lord Fitz and the Smelly Lord Fix. It was a tight game and easily lasted the bulk of the day, but we managed to just eek out victory, with only Frodo, Sam & Gollum surviving to dump the One Ring in the Crack of Doom, just before succumbing to the total corruption of the Dark & Odiferous.

The Ring shall be mine!

For lighter fare, we embarked on one of our group’s long-standing favorites: Shadows Over Camelot, and for the first time with my newly acquired Merlin’s Company expansion. One of our favorite parts of this game is the possibility that there may be a traitor in our midst. One of everyone ELSE’S favorite parts of the game seems to be accusing ME of being said traitor. So when Fix decided that my questionable moves were evidence of treachery, he wrongly accused me of being the traitor (just because he couldn’t understand the higher-level thinking and planning I was doing!) and then dubbed me Sir Bumbleton, the loyal, but confused knight. Of course, this erroneous move laid extra black swords on the table, helping the real traitor, DAV, who we managed to out before the end of the game. We then embarked on a looooong end-game and almost managed to pull out a win. There were 11 swords on the table, 7 of them white, and a quest was about to end, which would have placed the 12th and final sword, ending the game, with White winning! However, the quest ended such that it laid another Siege Engine on the table at the same time- the 12th Siege Engine. Which LOST the game to Dav and the Dark. Talk about the skin of his teeth!

Dinner on Sunday was another treat, as Dav grilled up a delicious pork tenderloin, to which we added a parsley pesto, salad and couscous. Fitz has photos of these- maybe he’ll be so kind as to upload them somewhere and link to them in the comments. I don’t know why we don’t eat this well back home!

Not content to rest, we crammed in one more new game before bed, the new Dungeons & Dragons: Lords of Waterdeep worker-placement/resource-management game. It’s basically just like Agricola, but faster and easier, (there’s less of the “Oh, no, my family’s gonna starve!” in the game.) It’s easy to understand with gorgeous pieces and we enjoyed two quick games. I won the first, and Dav the second.

Proof that Geeks neither dissolve in water nor catch fire in sunlight!

Sunday morning saw another quick dip in the water, lest we be accused of not taking proper advantage of our vacation in the Hamptons, an easy breakfast of cereal and eggs, and then rampant diseases and destruction as FIVE diseases ripped round the world in Pandemic, played with Fix as the Bioterrorist from the On The Brink expansion. We got lucky by curing a disease early in the game, which led to a really looong and drawn out game. It should be noted that at some point during the game, Dav uttered the words “I’ve held a guy’s package at an airport.” I don’t know why, but it’s written down in my notes from the weekend, so it must be important. Anyway, despite locking Fix in jail twice, as the game dragged on, it finally became clear we were not going to win. We even managed to cure 4 of the 5 diseases, but still managed to lose.

At this point, Fitz had to leave us to attend a friend’s wedding that evening, lest Rachel leave him. After dropping him at the train station, (he was positively EAGER to go, Rach, honest!) we got in a quick and fun game of Munchkin, in which Kris DESTROYED the other players and then we began… wait. Let me just say something. We thought War of the Ring was epic. This next game made WotR look like Candy Land. Space Empire is not for the faint of heart. After nearly 6 hours we still hadn’t even come close to finishing and I had become completely lost. So I wimped out and forfeited. Well, it was a bit of feeble ending on my part to an absolutely fantastic weekend, but them’s the breaks. After packing up our games and swimsuits, we wolfed down some BLT sandwiches and headed back to the city. Altogether, I estimate we managed to squeeze in some 50 hours of gaming! Let’s do this again sometime!

Where’s all the Beer gone?

Brains!

*I think it was in reference to mining gold nuggets at Crested Butte in Silverton. I hope.





We’re the Knights of the Round Table, we kick traitor-ass whene’er we’re able!

4 07 2012

July’s Game Night came with heat and a side helping of sweat. But that didn’t deter our dedicated dice-rollers from daring to deploy three different games! We even had two new players this time, the lovely Faith and the largely Mason*. It’s always nice to have new players and I hope to see them again soon!

The night began with a couple of light rounds of The Resistance, which was thankfully able to accommodate all 6 of us, (myself, Dav, Fitz, and Daly also in attendance.) Resistance is a great variation on the traditional Mafia party game. In this version, 2 players are secretly selected to be spies and are known only to each other. The entire group must use successive rounds of voting to hopefully ferret out the villains. The mechanics are simple and quickly taught- it’s the assessment of other players’ trustworthiness, (and eventually the yelling, as Dav pointed out,) where the game really gets exciting. It’s a fun one for me. We played two games and in the first, Fitz and I won as the spies, and in the second the group won against Faith and Dav.

Next we played Bohnanza, another good game for a larger group, this one focusing on barter. The rules for this one are relatively simple, but are somehow always difficult for me to teach. Nevertheless, we soon got rolling and the serious trading began. It’s always fun making promises to get what you want… Keeping promises, on the other hand… Well, let’s just say I like having new players who don’t yet know not to trust me. Not, mind you, that it did me any good. New kid Mason creamed everyone, winning the game with 16 points! The next highest were 11, 11, 10, 7, and 5. Better keep an eye on him from now on.

Then we wrapped the night with a hardcore nerd game, as Faith had been promised that she’d get to see just how geeky Game Night can get. Shadows Over Camelot with the Merlin’s Company expansion filled the role nicely. After explaining to Faith what a “hit point” was, the rest of the rules explanation went relatively painlessly. Mason, meanwhile, being an old-school D&D player, took to it like a pig in mud.  The cooperative nature of the game was a nice change of pace for the night, but the challenge was intense. A Traitor was indeed in our midst, suspected early on by the valiant King Arthur, (me.) But the game played oddly long this time. Our Evil card draws were never too terrible and we mostly spent forever watching the Grail and Excalibur quests go back and forth, never quite reaching full victory or defeat. Even after a good 90 minutes, there was only 1 or 2 swords, (out of 12) on the table. It was just incredibly slow. Eventually Squire Mason had to leave, but not without having had a fantastic time. I have a feeling he’ll be back. Not long after, Sir Dav also had to leave and nobly sacrificed himself on his way out in order to give each of the rest of us an additional hit point. This left just myself, Lady Faith, Sir Fitzy, and Lord Daly. Finally, we managed to get Excalibur, but I had a strong feeling it was due to lots of good cards being secretly thrown away into the Lake by none other than the shifty-eyed Lord Daly. He’d been a little too quiet the whole game and really seemed to spend too long gazing into the depths of the Rulebook. Now that we had the white swords from the Excalibur quest secured the Round Table held 4 white and 5 black. If we could just get 3 more white swords, we’d win… unless the Traitor then revealed himself. Since the Grail Quest was nearly complete, and would give us all 3 swords in one step, I moved my token there and began assembling the troops. I assigned Sir Fitzy and Lady Faith the task of staying home in Camelot to search for new Grail cards which I could then trade from them on my turn with my special power. But I continued stringing Daly along, right up until I determined we were possibly within one round of winning. And then I accused his traitorous ass! Which he was! Standing fully revealed in his aura of Evil, the Dark Lord Daly exercised his taunting power and swiped a card from Sir Fitzy: the last Grail card we needed to win! Arghhh!!! The race was on. The Knights raced to deliver me the final Grail card with the last of their remaining strength. Finally, I acquired a Special White Card which allowed me to move Merlin to the Quest of my choice. Summoning the wizard to my side I was now able to draw white cards on my own. Finally, on my next turn, just like Mel Gibson in Maverick, I drew a White Grail Card and won the game! What a finish! And what a game! Shadows frequently lasts only about 90-120 minutes, but this session lasted over 3 hours!

July Game Night was a grand ol’ time and I’m looking forward to the next one!

*6 feet and 8 inches full of hit points and d20s!





Chew on this!

25 07 2009

I just put down Chew #1 by John Layman and Rob Guillory and couldn’t get to my keyboard fast enough. This is a comic that needs to be reviewed, NOW!

Tragically, I never picked up Chew when it first came out on June 4, and needed to be tricked into it by Image Comics putting it out in a third printing on the back of Walking Dead #63, one of my regular monthly books. Truth be told, I somehow never found the premise that interesting: the main character is a cop who gets psychic impressions from the food he eats. Big deal. Sounds like just another twist on the quirky television cop show trend, a la Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Ghost Whisperer or some such other drivel. Well, if you felt this way as well, lemme tell ya, sister! You were dead wrong! And I knew it after only the second page. If this doesn’t hook you, nothing will.

It was the beets that really got me. Well, first it was the “something else entirely” line. It’s timing and the arresting image by Guillory hit me just right. And then the beets made me laugh out loud. So now I knew this book had something going for it- a cool and quirky take on a rather dry genre, with some appropriate leavening humor thrown in. But can it sustain? Well, the next page certainly indicated more of the same. So that was good. Then the book started getting into the plot, slowly revealing the absurd situation that the United States finds itself in, (I’m trying not to give it away here- the reveal is too good to be spoiled by the likes of me,) which adds yet another layer of excellent humor to the book as well as some fine political commentary. Can this book get better? You bet it can! The first issue’s plot ends with our protagonist being forced into an extreme situation- one which gives the premise one final twist and one which made me yell out loud in shock and excitement!

John Layman tells a really well-crafted and balanced story, squeezing quite a lot into just 22 pages. Chew bends the rules in a satisfying way, truly giving the reader something new and rather unlike anything else on the stands. I’ll be anxious to see if he can keep me guessing like this throughout the series. If so, he’s got me hooked. As with the Zombie craze of the past few years, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing quite a few imitators in the months to come. Rob Guillory’s art is the perfect complement to Layman. Guillory has a quirky, humorous style, which is not at all inappropriate for a book with as many good laughs as this one. But this isn’t a humor book- it just needs frequent lightening of the mood, or else it would get too bogged down in what becomes some pretty chilling stuff. I was enjoying his art throughout the first issue, finding him to be incredibly solid in his style and draftsmanship, (perhaps this comes from his background in children’s book illustration?) but I wasn’t getting a strong impression as to his storytelling talents. And then I turned to the book’s double-page spread and was blown away. To be honest, it certainly had a lot to do with Layman’s scripting of the moment, but Guillory did a fine job supporting it. I’d be remiss not to mention Guillory’s self-coloring, except I didn’t really get to see it- the reprint I read was in black and white only. From what I’ve seen however, the coloring is top notch, with really ubiquitous and defining pallette choices. I don’t know much about Guillory, (or Layman, for that matter,) but I’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for more of their stuff.

(Oh, one other note about Guillory, and a bit of a side-rant. I noticed several moments in the book with repetitive imagery, the kinds of panels that you too frequently these days see simply photocopied or otherwise artificially duplicated. And yet Guillory never resorted to this sort of cheap cop out. (Aside from the obvious photoshopping of the double-page spread. Except here was an instant where the technology was actually appropriate to the effect.) It just drives me nuts when comic artists photocopy panels over and over again; Mark Bagley did it all the time in Ultimate Spider-Man! “Identical” panels are supposed to represent two separate moments in time, and therefore should be drawn separately as well.)

Chew #1 is available in a third printing, (black and white only,) on the back of Walking Dead #63. The first two color printings are extremely hard to find. Chew #2 is already into it’s second printing as well. I’ve no doubt Image will be collecting the first few issues of this book in a trade, but I strongly urge you to try to find them in the single issue format.

To that end, here’s some exciting news from Guillory’s blog:

“On August 5, the first 3 issues of CHEW will be in stores. This is a PERFECT opportunity for new readers to jump on, and for others to catch up. So again, on that date, we’ll be releasing:

CHEW #1 Third Printing
CHEW #2 Second Printing
CHEW #3 First Printing”

Bon Appetit!

Chew is published by Image Comics.