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July 30, 2005

New Cooperative Games

There's three new games among my collection that I find quite interesting. All feature cooperative play, where all (or all but one) players win or lose as a team.

First is a remake of the classic Arkham Horror. This new version adds the graphical sophistication of modern production and a few rules modifications to create a very familiar game with several (mostly promising) differences. Players take on the role of investigators attempting to fight back the encroaching dark influence of a powerful dark Elder God. In a major change from the original, the game now has a single Elder God picked as the force behind this game's event, with some pervasive mechanical effect (similar, but less all-encompassing, than a similar mechanic in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). In a major upgrade, cards are now used instead of tables to generate random events, which means there are now several new and less predictable events, particularly on the far side of dimensional gates. This game is a bit long (depending on which enemy you face, it can take several hours), as was the original, but it tends to offer considerable options and choices for the players, so it's never boring. Difficult, certainly. But not boring. Not at all. A worthy successor to an already great game.

Shadows Over Camelot offers another take on cooperative play. Here, the players are the knights of the round table, setting off on quests to establish their legend before invasion and betrayal overcome them. The color and style are great, though the play mechanics are a bit simplistic; most quests consist mainly of trying to build and deploy simple sets of numbered cards. Keeping things interesting are a deck of cards which randomly deploy the opposing side and, most uncertainly, the possibility of a traitor. That's right, even though this is a cooperative game, there's a very real chance that one of the knights might actually be working against the rest. This can add significant uncertainty and fun! I've read reviews which suggest that the game suffers a bit from momentum effects, where either a win or a loss is very obvious well before the game is actually done... But lots of games have that "problem", and this one is both very pretty and uniquely strong in its cooperative structure. Certainly worth checking out.

Thirdly, there's Battlestations. This is a bit less of a cooperative game than it is a very mechanical, bare-bones roleplaying game, but just where cooperative boardgames end and RPGs begin is a tricky line to draw. In this game, one player Referees and plays the enemy side while the others each control one crewmember of a spaceship set to a mission. Most interesting here is a mechanics system that allows simultaneous play of ship-to-ship combat, boarding actions, and scientific investigations. Which means much of the game is resource management, with the most important resource being the various skills of the characters. Simple re-roll mechanics allow player characters to be very good at their professional tasks without making it impossible for other characters to assist effectively. Play is achieved on multiple boards, one simple hexes for the ships to move on, the others the ship interiors, made up of square modular rooms, marked where control panels and such can be accessed. This is a very interesting game, and quite open-ended (again, more like an RPG than a boardgame).

Posted by ghoul at 05:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2005

Dare I Hope?

Saw this news today.

Yeah, it's still very early.

And yeah, I'd much rather see a film based on Gates of Fire, which does a better job with the story. But if this offers any hope at all of something that looks better than The 300 Spartans, then it's worth having hope. And there's a whole lot of worse places to look than Miller's take on the story.

And it's certainly a story worth telling.

Posted by ghoul at 03:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

Visiting the Factory

Dunno if I have too much to add... I may be (and, in fact, am) allergic to chocolate, but I'm far from allergic to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

(spoilers possisble... except, of course, most everyone reading this has seen the older movie or, I hope, read the book.)

I agree with Dorothea here and, linking to other comments and extending on her own, here. There's a fairly clear subvsersive take on class and labor relations here. Some of it is in the original, but the film certainly emphasizes these elements.

On less serious notes... the five kids around whom the story rotates are all very well done, with only one requiring a bit of updating to the 21st century (and the new Mike Teavee is annoying in ways the original can only approach thanks to the addition of video games and techno-child arrogance to the mix). And cutting back to only one parent on the tour with each child (the book allows for two) just keeps things from being far too crowded.

I was delighted to hear original lyrics (albeit significantly cut back and occasionally re-ordered) in the Oompa-Loompa songs, and thought Elfman's music was a very good match to the rather difficult material. "What?", you may ask. "Did you recognize the re-ordered lyrics while watching the film?" Well, no... though a couple did feel wrong to me, I had to check the book to know just why. And, yes, Elfman did re-arrange some lyrics here and there, as well as cutting a good bit (the original songs are quite long).

You see, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been a favorite book of mine for some time. My copy, in fact, has my name and address written in the front cover, and from the address I can tell I've owned this copy for at least thirty years. I've read it a lot. I've seen the older movie version several times, though I've never been too taken by it. Wonka is too nice. Charlie is not nice enough. I mean, Charlie and Grampa Joe end up tripping over one of Wonka's odd confectionary deathtraps themselves, and that's just wrong in so many ways!

Does this new film have problems (other than, if you're opposed to the view it presents, it's take on labor and class issues)? Sure. Dahl's book had some rather pointed and nasty things to say about children and (especially) parents, and while the message is still there, the songs (which served in the original to hammer home the point) are cut and simplified to where they're more comic commentary than polemic (OK, maybe polemic wouldn't've worked in the film... but it's pretty clearly what Dahl wrote the book for). The added sub-plot of Willie Wonka's issues with his father are entertaining (especially since Christopher Lee is cast to give creepy gravitas to the role), but I'm not sure it doesn't actually undermine the "bad parenting messes kids up" message, since while Wonka is clearly "messed up", he's also a highly successful and beloved (if completely misunderstood and cut off from the world) candy-maker. Oh, and the extended ending does another disservice, at least in my book... It doesn't leave the original direct set-up for the sequel.

And Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is a book I love even more than the first. I mean, how could I not hope for (as unlikely as it is) a Tim Burton take on the Vermicious Knids?

Posted by ghoul at 04:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2005

Timelord - The Doctor Who RPG

At The Black Road, I mentioned to some Doctor Who fans that I had an unusual admiration for a relatively little-known Doctor Who RPG from the early 1990s.

And, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, here it is (original rules and some expansions... can't say as I've looked too much at the expansions just yet)! Now, there's a fair amount of silly in these rules, but since there's a fair amount of silly in the Doctor, I don't see the slightest problem with that.

(WARNING: This link is initially quite loud!)

Posted by ghoul at 08:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'm Back!

Well, it's been a bit ugly, these last three weeks...

Somehow, the database lurking behind this site got itself all confused, rendering it impossible to update the site without it all crashing down around me. And, to make matters worse, the bug also prevented updating any backups or otherwise saving the site with one simple step.

Instead, the text of all entries and comments since the version update back at the end of April had to be cut out and a backup file created by hand. Meanwhile, the whole site needed to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. I did the former, Jeanne handled the later (thanks a ton, Jeanne! I could not have managed this alone!).

And now, at the end, it's all done.

What was lost? Well, I had a draft for a post I'd written about a new board game that's lost (I'll re-write it tonight or tomorrow), all comments since April are now simplistically coded (commenter name only, no URL, email, or typekey link), and exactly one comment was mostly lost.

All in all, minor damage.

Expect a return to at least my regular pattern of occasional posting. Whatever that means.

Posted by ghoul at 01:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack