Archive for review

We-view Wednesday – The Powers That Be!

Posted in We-view Wednesday with tags , , , , , , , on May 6, 2009 by thegeekwearsprada

“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” ~Thomas Jefferson


Why is there a police department when there are superheroes to protect the population? That is a question answered in Volume 1, of Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl written by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming.

Enter Christian Walker, a chiseled-faced homicide detective in the local police department. His story is classic. He has been assigned a new and fairly inexperienced partner named Deena Pilgrim who has recently been transferred from the SWAT team.

As their story unfolds, we get an inside look at their relationship. And she could not have arrived at a better time because someone has murdered one of the world’s most respected superheroes, Retro Girl, who is found dead near an elementary school. Walker and Pilgrim are called up to track down her murderer. Their task is not an easy one because of the interference of numerous characters from the busy-buddy Detective Kutter (Walker’s former partner) who seeks glory at every turn to the press, as well as an impossible autopsy. After all; how do you do an autopsy on a superhero who is seemingly indestructible?

Trust, in the beginning, is the focus of the Walker-Pilgrim partnership. Type-A personalities with different investigative styles, the new team clash as outspoken, gung-ho Pilgrim and quiet, by-the-book Walker work together. At one point their relationship is tested when Pilgrim gets too nosey and looks into Walker’s personal life with Retro Girl, after a mysterious package arrives for him (props to Laura Petrie and the inflatable raft).

Bendis certainly has a gift for dialogue, which is pithy, tense, and highly entertaining. The back and forth banter flows with humour and intensity, making Retro Girl quite a fun reading experience. At times the art panels supersede the dialogue totally, creating dramatic visuals. Through the entire volume, I had difficulty navigating the pages, filled with word balloons and panels, some times needing to read across two pages but getting lost in the gutter. This does not, with my limited knowledge conform to other volumes/comic books that I have read, but I contribute my difficulties to this being a large book and not an individual comic book issue. The pages with the news casts were particularly troublesome for me as they moved from horizontal to vertical and then back again, but as the book progressed the rhythm became apparent and my difficulties lessened and then ceased altogether.

I think this is the first time a review of mine will not include a detail of the artwork, because the art work takes a backseat to the words with its simplicity. This book was much more entertaining because of the story itself which would make an ideal movie in my estimation

Powers is a very good read with well written characters who live in an exciting universe filled with superheroes and supervillians, and characters that are murky fun to encounter. Check this out and I can almost guarantee that Volume 1 will deliver!

I give this 5 PRADAs and I can’t wait to begin the next volume.

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We-View Wednesday – Player’s Handbook 2

Posted in We-view Wednesday with tags , , on March 25, 2009 by hergeek

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The new Players Handbook 2 arrived without much fanfare at my house last week, because at the same time a GIANT box arrived that piqued everyones attention (the aforementioned Skittles game, posted about here.)  But after we all got our spins on, I have now had a chance to digest some of the hereafter called PHB2, and I have a few thoughts about it (obviously, or this wouldn’t be much of a review.)

New Races:

Let me preface this portion of the review by saying that I am somewhat of a fantasy RPG traditionalist when it comes to character races.  Give me Humans, Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves (Dwarfs?), and  Haflings, and I’m happy.  So when 4E came out and suddenly I’m looking at Eladrin, Tiefilings, and Dragonborn, well, I’m afraid I kind of gave them the stink eye.  Eladrin were fine.  I just thought of them as the High Elves and the Elves as Wood Elves.  Dragonborn?  Far as I’m concerned, they don’t exist in my world.  Tieflings?  Well, I had a player that wanted to play one, so I gave in and am making the adjustment.

Now, PHB2 comes along and gives me a whole swath of new races.  The spirit-like, holier than thou Deva (bleh).  The Gnomes are now a PC race again.   (I’m not a monster any more!  Rar!) Large, strong, partially rocky Goliaths?  Not in my campaign, thanks.  The ubiquitous Half Orc makes a return, and I will gladly welcome them in place of the Goliath and Dragonborne.  And the Shifter, a feral race with traces of lycanthrophy (which I actually found kind of cool, and won’t mind having in my campaign in the right circumstances.)

They have also added Racial Paragon paths, where you can choose a paragon path based on race and not on class, such as the Halfling Scoundrel (Scoundrel?  Scoundrel?  I like the sound of that!) or the Human Adroit Explorer.  Oddly enough, there is no Racial Paragon path for Half Elves, they have to take the Versatile Master Paragon Feat now in PHB2.  *shrug*  OK.  Whatever.

New Classes:

After some pointed thought, I find the new classes a decidedly mixed bag, the same as the races.  The ones coming out on the upper end of the scale are the Avenger (a holy warrior), the Barbarian (obscene amounts of damage), and the Sorcerer (chaos personified…lots of damage, but very random).  The classes I’m grouping in the middle of the pack are the Druid (half of your powers can only be used while shifted into your animal shape) and the Warden (protector of the earth…the really tough brother of the Druid).  The classes I was cold on were the Shaman and the Invoker.  Don’t have a real reason why, just didn’t like the classes or abilities that much.

It appears to me that the goal is to have at least one Character Type (Leader, Defender, Controller, Striker) for each one of the Power Types (Arcane, Divine, Martial, Primal).  This book added all four Primal power classes ( Barbarian (Striker), Druid (Controller), Shaman (Leader) and Warden (Defender)) as well as filling the holes in the other Power types.  Did those holes really need filling?  Dunno.  I didn’t see a huge need, but now they are!

My big question…where is the Monk, and where will he fall in the grid?

The Rest:

Besides the races and classes, there are a few more things in the book.  They have a series of character backgrounds now, where you can choose a background for you character and that will give you a bonus to either some skills appropriate to the background, or a new language, or the like.  You can choose backgrounds based on Geography, Society, Birth, Occupation, or Race.  I really like this set of rules, it helps to give your players a push to round out their characters.

You also have some new feats to match up with the new races and classes, some new items and magic items, a few new rituals, and lastly, an Appendix that has some rules updates to the rules as presented in the Players Handbook.

Verdict:

I found the PHB2 to be a real mixed bag.  There is a lot to like here, as well as a lot that just made me go “Eh.”  I am sure that I will get some use out of the supplement, but since I am already in the middle of a campaign with established characters I’m not going to get much use out of that stuff.  I didn’t like several of the races as well as a couple of the new classes.  Overall, I’ll give this one a respectable three crits.  Buy it if you have a need for new characters and want to have every option possible available to your players.

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We-View Wednesday – Today

Posted in Uncategorized, We-view Wednesday with tags , , , on March 18, 2009 by hergeek

Today sucked. That is my official review of the day.

I give today 1 Critical (and I would post the pretty picture of 1 crit, but I can’t, because (a) I’m too busy and (b) GWP made those pretty pictures and she is even busier. Use your imagination!)

We-View Wednesday: Dungeon Delve

Posted in We-view Wednesday with tags , , , on March 4, 2009 by hergeek

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I’ll get right down to it.  I’m a lazy GM.  Between family and work and TV shows that I must watch (BBT, Chuck, BSG, Lost, Top Gear…you get the picture) I don’t have the time to create epic adventures for my players any longer.  I find myself having to rely on pre-packaged scenarios and campaigns for my games.  A little bit of reading, a little bit of tweaking, and with no more than a half hour prep I’m able to run my friends and family through an evening of hacking, slashing, blasting and general mayhem.

When I went out to Amazon to pre-order the Players Handbook 2 I found something called “Dungeon Delve” being recommended to me as well.  Quick look at the description…

“Dungeon Delve(TM) is designed for groups looking for an exciting night of monster-slaying without the prep time. It contains dozens of self-contained easy-to-run mini-dungeons, or “delves,” each one crafted for a few hours of game-play.”

Sold!

So the supplement arrived yesterday, and I had a chance to sit down and read through the beginning of the book, and look at the first few adventures.

What you will find inside of this book is exactly what it says above:  A bunch of self-contained mini-adventures that can be set up and run at a moment’s notice.  There is a single adventure for each of the levels from 1-30, and each adventure typical runs the space of about 3 encounters.  The adventures are pre-populated with bad guys, and they provide the stat blocks for each creature, as well as an index as to where you can find them in the rulebooks if you need more details.  You also will have a series of “hooks” for you to use to try and integrate the adventure into your existing campaign, as well as information on tactics, enviromental effects, and treasure.  They don’t seed any magic items into the treasure, instead they give you the option of providing a magic item of an appropriate level.

One thing that I really like about this product is that they also provide you with information on which Dungeon Tiles set you can use to re-create the maps they provide.  I have a complete set of Dungeon Tiles, but I rarely use them because it is difficult to figure out which ones I need to pull out to create the maps for my players.

My one gripe, and it is a gripe I’ve had with all of these new D&D 4E books, is that if they encounter the least bit of humidity, the paper stock gets the waves.  I had to send a book back to Amazon because it was delivered on a rainy day and it looked like someone had dropped it into a bucket of water and let it dry out.

All in all, a highly recommended product, especially for the lazy or unprepared GM (like me!)  This one rates 4 Crits from me, and I’m sure will get a lot of use.

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We-View Wednesday – Litko Aerosystems D&D 4E counters

Posted in We-view Wednesday with tags , , , , on February 25, 2009 by hergeek

With the new release of 4th Edition D&D, there suddenly became a lot of thing to keep track of on the map grid.  Characters and monsters became stunned, surprised, marked, bloodied, dominated, dazzled, cursed, poisoned, etc. all the time.  Through the course of a battle it became hard to keep track of what had happened to who and when.

Enter Litko Aerosystems and Jim’s Labto the rescue!  I had looked at the high-quality laser cut counters and bases they provided for quite a while, but I never had a game system to apply them to.  I contacted Jim at Litko and just dropped the idea in his head that some status markers for the new D&D system would be nice to have.  He responded “Funny.  I had the same idea,” and about an hour later he had prototype markers up in his Jim’s Lab section of the site.

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And here we had a philosophical parting of ways.  Litko makes their markers out of high quality plastic, laser cut and etched.  They are really, really nice markers.  But he made them 1″ square markers, and I really wanted 1″ round markers.

See, it’s all about aesthetics.  I like the look of a well managed battle scene.  I am constantly having to remind my players to pick up their dice and pencils and square their characters on the battle grid.  So I was wanting this nice little round marker that would not have edges sticking out from under the 1″ bases of the character…just a band of color under the figure that would remind me “OK, he’s poisoned, you need to make a saving throw at the end of your turn.”

So Jim and I got into a little discussion about the aesthetics of the markers, and in the end, he won.  (Hey, it’s his company…)  However, he is nice enough to do custom orders, so if I wanted a custom order with round markers, he’ll do one for me (at a slight increase in cost.)  So I placed my order for the Dungeon Master’s Set…but please make them round!

They eventually showed up this week (along with some mini-red skull tokens to mark bloodied figures) and I was not disappointed at all.  They fit perfectly under the figures, and the little red tokens are excellent for keeping track of the bloodied figures.  In hindsight, I should have also got a set of grey skull tokens to mark cursed figures.  The warlock in our party tosses around curses like beads at a Mardi Gras parade.

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Where's Captain America when you need him?

I would really recommend if you are a 4E player that you check out the full line up of effect tokens they have come up with.  (And get round ones.  They’re way prettier!)  Or, even if you aren’t playing 4E, but have some other game that you like pretty tokens for, you really should check out his site.  He has some really nice things on there.  I’ve been eyeing his flight stands for Wings of War for a while now.

I’m giving the Litko 4E DM’s token set and mini red skulls 4 out of 5 crits.  I’m docking them one crit because it did take a considerable time for them to get the custom tokens to me, and they should have been round by default, dammit!

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We-View Wednesday – Battlestar Galactica The Board Game

Posted in We-view Wednesday with tags , , , , on February 11, 2009 by hergeek

The Cylons were created by man.  They evolved.  They rebelled.  There are many copies. And they have a plan. – Opening Credits – Battlestar Galactica

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I have never been a big fan of licensed games, whether video, role-playing, or boardgames.  In almost all cases, the game does not live up to the premise of the license, does not deliver that quintessential somethingness that makes the license shine.  (City of Heroes collectible card game, I’m looking at you!)

Not so with Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game.  Of all of the licensed properties that I have played, this one got it right.  The characters, the action, the tension, the drama, the paranoia.  Oh lord, the paranoia that this game brings out.

The game looks very complex at the start.  All of the players take on a role as one of the main characters from the game, and their goal is to escort the surviving remnants of humanity to the planet Kobol so that they can recover the map to the lost 13th Colony, Earth.  The humans have a limited amount of resources to accomplish this, and almost every decision that they make will sacrifice some part of their precious resources to do this.  If at any time any one of these four resources (Food, Fuel, Population, or Morale) drop to 0, the humans have lost and the Cylons have won. [GWP Note: *YAWN*]

The play is cooperative, where all of the players use the skills of the characters they have to fight off one disaster after another until they can jump to the next planet.  Each turn, some new disaster will arise, and all of the players will throw in cards to help stave off this new disaster facing the fleet, or lose some precious resource that they need to survive.

But hidden amongst the players are one or more Cylons.  At the start of the game, cards are dealt to each player that will tell them if they are a hidden Cylon agent working against the humans.  Then at each crisis phase, the Cylons can, in secret, throw in cards that will reduce the chances of the humans succeeding.  So as soon as bad cards start showing up, accusations start to fly, denials are issued, and paranoia ensues.  The tension this raises is awesome. [GWP Note: I am dozing off?]

Play balance in this game is superb.  In the last game I played, the humans had an easy time of it early on.  A few losses, but good progress was made towards Kobol, and spirits were high.  Then the sleeper agents awoke.  Alliances were quickly formed.  One Cylon that had no poker face was quickly flushed out and thrown in the brig.  A Cylon sympathizer appeared.   Chaos ensued.   And I sat there, with my newly dealt “You are a Cylon” card, and sewed suspicion and doubt to the other side, and quietly continued to sabotage the humans.  I was eventually flushed out after I made a power play and siezed control of the presidency and the admiralty within a turn, but by then the damage was done, the humans were limping towards their last jump to Kobol.  It all played out to the last turn of a card, if the humans lived or died.  Every single player was standing up when the last card was turned over, waiting to see the results.  We just couldn’t stay in our seats.  It was SO cool!

And as is trademark with all FFG games, production values are superb in this game.  Little dials on the board to keep track of resources.  Nice photo cards and tokens.  Little plastic Vipers and Raptors and raiders.  All pieces are top notch. [GWP Note: *stretching* Ahhh that nap was nice. Thank you.]

This game is one of the most fun games I have played in a long, long time.  I really want to get my hands on it again soon, to give it another run.  I’m giving this one 4.5 Crits out of 5.  I docked it 1/2 crit because I’m not 100% sure if a person that didn’t like the show would enjoy the board game as much as I did.  My gut reaction is yes, because the game is really just that much fun.

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We-view Wednesday – Magicians & Matthau

Posted in We-view Wednesday with tags , , , , , , on February 4, 2009 by thegeekwearsprada

I’m not psychic myself.” –Dionne Warwick

mysterius-previewI admit that when it comes to psychics and séances I am a complete skeptic and frankly, I think that magic is waste of time. However, when I saw the preview of Wildstorm’s Mysterius: The Unfathomable and the character who reminded me of Walter Matthau in a lecherous situation with his secretary, I had no idea that the story line revolved around magic and psychics. I was just attracted to the artwork and I immediately put it on my list and looked forward to reading the first installment.

This comic is one that I hope to continues well past its six issue run because of its quirky, overly exaggerated characters and mostly monochromatic artwork by Tom Fowler and the Jeff Parker story line that is fun and never bland.

Séances were all the rage in the 1920s, but they are now looked upon as a way to bilk money out of lonely and grieving family members and that is how it is viewed by Ella, a “journalist” for The Lurker magazine. Ella attends a séance initiated by a rich playboy, in The City, with the propose of reporting the scam, but what happens is she ends up “looking into” Mysterius the Great of the aged magician and becoming his assistant because of her abilities.

To the title character, Mysterius, his magic world is the only world. Magic is the everyday and he uses it to satisfy the needs of his life—getting back at his assistant for her behaviour, dealing with Ella’s job at the magazine and her boss, and even traveling from place to place.

While I am not certain if I like Mysterius, I do like the spunky Ella and I look forward to the relationship that will be built between the two of them.

I give this 4.5 PRADAs for the fun.

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