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12:10 PM on 04.24.2012

Dungeon Blitz Challenge Day 1: Concept to early beginnings

Note: This idea only appeals to board gamers or people who are interested in a hurried concept series.

One day, in a chat, someone mentioned an inability to make the classic game Gauntlet into a card game. Within a minute, I had a solution which they so cruelly cast aside. But my concept was sound, hopefully balanced(as this challenge has NOTHING to do with playtesting), and figured I would SOOOOO love to design a coop dungeon crawler that plays in 60 minutes or less. I wanted to do all this and more importantly, have it ready by Geekway to the West which, under the best case scenario, gives me about a week to go from concept to printable design.

The game, Dungeon Blitz, foregos most concepts of combat and assumes anything reached within a radius by a certain character is dead. But I also needed something to push those bastards through the dungeon and so I needed a Pyramid Head constantly stalking behind the players, forcing them through. Win or lose, the concept is to get the game over with in 30-60 minutes and more importantly, have a concept go from txt to printable in only a few days. How appropriate that I will document this progress as the Dungeon Blitz Challenge...

Day 1: The Game Crafter, Square Cards, and Monster Sketches.

Since I plan to use The Game Crafter as my printer, I start by downloading some templates for Mini Poker Cards and Square Cards. The Square Cards are 3.5" x 3.5" which, designing this game around placing squares (Zombies, House on Haunted Hill), I had to consider how many spaces I wanted on each card. Being the clever bastard that I am (not), I decided Legend of Zelda style rooms should be best for the concept.


The various monsters. The very bottom right is an instant death character that will force players through the dungeon. The others are Skeleton, Slime, Flash Cat, Wraith, and Goblin.

Each game should also be slightly different as well as have certain types of challenges only solvable by teamwork. Hell, let's even go with scenarios, and pop 10 of them bastards on. So with the workable space on the cards, I could have a 6x6 room with a little over 1/2" squares, or a 7x7 room with 7/16th inch square, or an 8x8 room with 3/8" squares. Keep in mind, these squares WILL feature reused asset with the intent to just hammer out a shitton of rooms.


One hour, several tiles...

With only a basic concept going, these tiles worked well in creating this very basic room.


That's all I got done in a limited amount of time. Tomorrow, I plan to map out simple rooms on Grid Sheets and yes, MAOR TILES.   read


12:53 PM on 03.12.2012

Gym Chased Me Away...


Those who know me know that I am, as Adam Corolla puts it, Hyper Vigilante. Tiny things annoy me, minor issues explode into universes of grievances, and it can take it's toll over a prolonged period of time. This is a story which many could consider off topic, I consider it the long journey to a Kinect.

You see, I am by no means a skinny person and though my face is slightly ill formed, when added with a paunch, it just seems tragic. And so, with a friend, I decided to join a Gym named Cardinal Fitness. This gym was cheap, down the street from my home, and was typically just busy enough to have people, but not too busy that you couldn't get on a machine.

Of course, the advantage was that I could read books while running in place, and boy did I. The time I spent on the ellipticals meant I could read board game rulebooks, D&D player guides, fiction and nonfiction, etc. I did, however, lack an MP3 player and so I heard everything.

Among the things I heard were conversations that did little to impress upon me the plights of the common man. As an example, hearing two ethnic women discussing the "good news" of a cop that died recently trying to stop a domestic disturbance was depressing. Of the other things I would hear, a sorority girl had troubles convincing her boyfriend that she wasn't into choking, Obama is apparently a communist trying to convert American lifestyles, Jesus loves you but hates gays, a couple top strategies to convince ones significant other into a three way, and how disgusting and out of place fat people like myself were at a gym. These were common conversations everyone seemed to think nobody else could hear.


The entire gym was also very aggressively against those trying to improve while providing an environment appealing solely to those who are improved. Were I a vain man in my physical appearance, this place was a palace of mirrors and a testiment to my awesome rather than a penance to be served for the guilt of being out of shape. Instead, I take vanity in my mental capacity and have mentally masterbated at the turn of a phrase. Mirrors don't help in that case, instead offering a reflection of a doughy man so woefully out of place in this Beautiful Peoples Club.

Time passed and most of these issues could at least be tolerated so long as my friend forced me to continue to go but eventually he moved and my ability to work out was limited to self-control and who REALLY wants to go to an environment they despise. But I continued, solely because I was paying for it.

Then something weird happened, Cardinal Fitness became Charter Fitness and with it came a new influx of members, lower prices for those members, and a general crowding that kicked my hyper vigilance in overdrive. If I felt out of place initially, this was where I REALLY felt like a leper at a dance off (protip: Lepers have real problems with taking the left foot out during Hokey Pokeys). You see, the situation went from "at least I can get on a machine quickly" to "damnit, I gotta wait around for 15-20 minutes for a machine."


I, by nature, am a wallflower. Though I am willing to take center stage, it's often on my terms and when I'm in a situation where attention can easily be paid to me, I try to be as unassuming as possible. In a room full of mirrors, standing behind a row of elliptical trainers and stair machines, and my standing behind this row waiting for a turn for a prolonged period of time, the perception of my character can and was misconstrued on multiple occassions. Though I wait my turn, any which way I turn my gaze has a line of well defined asses. Though my intention was just waiting for my turn, I am aware of how I look. Loose jeans, generic t-shirt, possibly one of the nerdiest pieces of literature ever to be dragged into the gym (most recently, the rulebook to the miniatures board game Dreadfleet), standing nearly motionless in a perceived lecherous intent. As time passed, my willingness to throw myself into this role evaporated completely.

But then I remembered a period where my love of gaming helped me lose weight. I was addicted to early music games and among them, Pump It Up. If you're not aware, let me put it this way. DDRs pad was up, down, left, right, essentially giving you six potentially centers of gravity you could shift to. PIU had 5 buttons in a cross shape, gaining access to 10 potential centers of gravity. Likewise, PIU had what was widely regarded as the best choreographed dance game stepcharts in the industry. As an obsessed idiot, I played the hell out of this game (remember, I can take center stage but only on my terms). More importantly, I lost hella weight. As arcades died, I lost access to these machines and as such, gained weight again.


Of course you COULD always go to the easy fitness games but I tried those before with problems. The biggest being that I have downstairs neighbors who would likely prefer I not frogstomp all over my living room. Next, keeping things fresh in these programs is a huge challenge. After all, how many times can you run in place before it bores you?

But wait, one of my favorite studios makes a dancing game, only I don't have a Kinect and if I buy it, discover I don't have the room for it, well, I'm out cash, right? Right. So I had a couple friends with Kinects and after pestering them for months, one finally lent me his Kinect. After clearing out some space, I discovered Dance Center is NOT running in place or hopping related exercise. With Target's sale this week, I acquired my Kinect and now plan to lose weight in an area where I don't feel weird or out of place, my own home.

Sometimes the world just has to realize how intimidating and hostile of an environment the membership gyms are... maybe THAT'S what is selling so many Kinects. I know that's what sold mine. See? Gaming related after all!
  read


9:51 PM on 02.10.2012

Kickstomping the Little Guy is Double Fine


There is a significant amount of people clapping their hands at Double Fine's recent success on Kickstarter. On one hand, I appreciate the fact that the service is there to help people with truly unique ideas to get the money they need to make their dreams a reality. Here is the problem I have, though. Double Fine's ONLY truly unique idea going into this is that they found Kickstarter.

Not Ready For Kickerstarter

As a dude who's jumped in and funded games ranging from the mobile platforms to even board games I thought looked unique and interesting, there is one thing I typically notice. Who is ready for Kickstarter and who isn't. There are people who had their games in prototype phase for a good long time and after having had problems getting a publisher to help them out, they turn to the community. In the way of video games, these guys have a design doc, beginning art, a set schedule, and basically answer to you as if you are the publisher. In the realm of board games, these are people making all new contacts, worrying about production costs, printing games, making distribution partners, and these are people who essentially have a game ready after months, sometimes years, of rigorous design and testings.

Most of the time, these are people who have an idea, have a reason and a purpose for the money they want, and have their hands out in the fervent hope other people share their vision. I've backed projects that have succeeded and failed and the ones that failed are often people without a solid plan. The phrase "not ready for Kickstarter" is often uttered amongst the board gaming community as Kickstarter has become a great place where new and interesting projects have been coming from.

After years of running our business poorly, please fund us.

Now you have Double Fine who, despite all odds, is still around. They spent millions making a Sesame Street game, embargoed Brutal Legend reviews to make sure the truth of their game doesn't get released, and essentially had massive problems all around. They are the underdog that has made a bunch of bad decisions and to quote John Hammond, "I don't fault people for their mistakes, but I do ask that they pay for them." Double Fine has access to contacts within major publishers, they have contacts with distribution channels, they have access to industry know how that NO ONE ELSE IN THE HISTORY OF KICKSTARTER has access to.

Now, I don't mind them running a kickstarter if they had a plan, concept, even a solid direction, they have NONE of that. They have a history of business failings and their hands out for you to buy 100% purely on faith. Therein lies my problem. While other companies spent, literally, months preparing for their kickstarter presentation, Double Fine just showed up, talked their history, and said, "we promised we'll give you a game someday... super pinky swear." Don't believe me? Go to Kickstarter right now (keeping in mind, I didn't test this theory, that's how sure I am) and look at the other projects, especially in gaming. These are people with solid foundations, detailed plans, and something beyond "we're totally making a game, guys." These are people who actually have something to show long before they attempt to get you to fund it. Double Fine did none of that and this is a fundamental issue I have. They have no plan, no direction, all the contacts to get funding any other way, and now, they've set a dangerous precedent.

Big Dog Coming Through, Outta The Way, Pussies

Now Double Fine is on the main pages, they're the top response on Kickstarter, and they've, in turn, crowded out the little guys. The dude who wanted to make his platformer but couldn't afford the software license to Maya, fuck him. Double Fine is more important. This other guy? Doesn't have contacts within publishers, doesn't have industry veterans backing him, has nothing but his dreams. FUCK HIM, DOUBLE FINE IS MORE IMPORTANT.

I know there are SOME people who went to Kickstarter and funded something other than Double Fine, but the bulk of others came, paid, got the fuck out. Schaffer used his celebrity to choke out the real unknowns, the future Notch's, and now, with that dramatic of a number, it will cast a shadow over the service. I mean, how can the dude writing an RPG system based around space pirates possibly compete with Tim Fucking Schaffer. In a way, Tim Schaffer came in and totally Activisioned everyone else on Kickstarter. Because he was so successful doing this, who do you think will pick up where they left off? I heard Jaffe's forming a new company, maybe he needs some funding. Johnathon Blow fought long and hard self funding Braid and his current project, why fight at all? Clearly Mikami should get in on that shit. The greatest thing about it is the Double Fine success means you don't have to show ANYTHING. It could be a game about a child raping clown for fuck all you know, because they didn't have to show ANYTHING beyond showing up. How ironic that, in the day where we're fighting for truly independant gaming to succeed, we allowed Tim Schaffer to big time a channel for people who truly needed the funding.

Update: Combing The Kickstarters And Who NEEDS Your Money

After giving a bit of time lapse between writing and posting the blog, I sought out some projects I feel could use the funding. Sure, they're significantly under $400K goals but THESE are the kinds of people that need your Kickstarter help.

Project 1: Saturday Morning RPG- Episodic RPGs featuring 80's awesomeness and Skeleboar...
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mightyjosh/saturday-morning-rpg
With an asking price of only $6000, these fellows are asking to help them finish up their project and queue some awesome iOS episodic badass into 2012. With the first episode being free, they've got a long road ahead and hope to have episodes ready to go before they start launching. The team is rapidly running out of money and presenting a truly unique concept to be brought to market, first for iOS, other platforms to follow. Check them out, watch the video, and for fucks sake, throw some support their way. After all, who else will put Rainbow Stripe Gum Zebras as a summoning spell in RPGs if these guys don't?

Project 2: Dueling Blades- Super Chibi Battling to Facebook, PS. Support these guys before Zynga just steals the game.
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1595463124/dueling-blades
When you think Facebook game, admit you think Zynga and their MafiaVilleTowerHarvestFuckingRipoffCloneEmpire. Don't think that way because there are SEVERAL people trying to make legitimately fun, engaging, and interesting concepts for Facebook and HourBlast Games is among them. Designed as a simultaneous action style game, you have to predict your opponents movements and be right there to deal damage. Featuring 7 character classes, campaign, customization, and even character tech trees, there's enough to do in this game even without playing against other players live. They need $8000 and what do they need it for? Advertising, software licenses, and server costs. Sure, it might be hard to justify investing in a game you never truly own, but think of it this way, they have an extremely small window to make money before Zynga releases DuelVille. So throw a few bucks their way.

Project 3: Farmageddon- A Card Game of Farming... At All Cost
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1892930431/farmageddon-the-frenetic-farming-game
This dude and I have some personal history. You see, as I was working on Imps Vs Puppies to print through TheGameCrafter, Grant Rodiek was always in their chat, helping folks out because he was selling this game through their POD service. Helping people like myself out to getting our cards ready to print. No money was in it for him, he was just a swell guy. He also has a history working on The Sims. When Haiku (a game design of mine) was picked up by Cambridge Games Factory, he was among the first to congratulate me. Now the problem with POD (Print On Demand) is that it's expensive since it is literally printed one copy at a time. In a perfect world, you could buy Imps Vs Puppies for $12 (instead of the $15.99 it's currently available for here https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/imps-vs-puppies ) but because of the high cost, $15.99 is the cheapest I can go, making less than a dollar per copy. Farmageddon was in the same boat but despite this, it was doing good and one day, it disappeared, finding a publisher, 5th Street Games. Now 5th Street needs your help to print enough copies of this game to get them in everyones hands and you should really help them accomplish this goal. This was a dude who helped others at the drop of a hat and he needs your support.

There you go, three worthy Kickstarter projects that need your help. Give'em a boost, Dtoiders!   read


6:41 PM on 01.14.2012

Why is CheapyD is Saints Row 3?

Among the many douchebag comments in the CheapyD announcement, including mine, was a general bitching about CheapyD, how Scoville should be in (although, to be fair, I was bitching about the horrible Jim review of the game), how shitty of a person CheapyD is, how his site sucks, and how he obviously totally swindled his way into the game.

CUNTS! The whole lot of you, cunts. Offended? Annoyed? Angry because your favorite internet person isn't in? Well, tell you what. Let's turn back the clock.

In 2010, a volitionite (those referred to as Volition employees among the local gaming community) got caught in a fire and despite everyone's prayers, she fell due to infections. She worked there, saving money for college, to eventually graduate from tester to game creator. Tragedy fell and one of the local gaming community was lost. Voliition, being the damn decent people they are, held charity auctions to help the friends and family. Among the many items on the block was a voiced appearance in an upcoming game, rumored at the time to be Saints Row 3. CheapyD, being a fan of the franchise, won the auction for $1750. The money went to a great cause and Volition always said it would be free DLC.

So CheapyD did a damn decent thing bidding so much on the auction. Volition donated any money made from this DLC to the family of the victim. Finally, we reap the benefits of this generous action.

That's why Scoville, Sterling, or Holmes are not your SR3 DLC...   read


8:30 PM on 10.31.2011

Penny Arcade: Gamers Vs Evil Review


Deck-Building is the latest trend in board gaming and everyone is jumping on. EVERYONE. Including, of course, the Penny Arcade guys and Cryptozoic is counted among this mass and have presented us with the official Penny Arcade: Deck Building Game. After acquiring it, enjoying a few games, and receiving the Fruit Fucker Prime promo set, I'm chock full of opinions on this baby, so let's proceed.


2 of the 10 characters

One of the biggest problems hitting Deck-Building today is that the theme seems to be the biggest thing changing in the genre. Dominion created, Thunderstone furthered it, and Ascension presented the last new round of ideas in the genre. Other companies played at fresh ideas but right now the stagnation in concept is setting in and the truly unique Deck-Building game concepts are either coming from more niche corners (Blood Bowl, Rune Age) or Kickstarter (Eaten By Zombies and Miskatonic: School For Girls). So with a setup like that, I wonder where Penny Arcade comes in.

Well, the mechanics of their system is essentially Resident Evil, Ascension, and Dominion all rolled into one. The only unique concept presented here, game wise, is the "Boss Loot" piles. The part that worries me is the box names this engine which has two possible implications, either this system is going to support multiple licensed properties within the same game (ala, UFS and Vs) or this exact same game is going to be reskinned to hell and back with as many franchises as possible. Neither are good scenarios but hopefully Cryptozoic will shut Pandera's (intentional) Box before it's too late.


In Ascension, these cards are called Militia and Apprentice...

So how does this game work? Well first, you have a character with a special talent and a starting deck. So the Scoutmaster from the Winter King special gains a benefit any time any player defeats an evil Boss Loot card. AnnArchy gains a character specific card, the Bat'leth. This mechanic comes from Resident Evil's deck-building game. Next, you set up the gaming area with 7 Green (Gamers) and 7 Red (Evil) card stacks, ala Dominion. After setting this up, you add the Pax Pox cards (Curse/Disease from Dominion/Thunderstone) and finally set up the Boss Loot stacks. What's this? A new idea up in this bitch? It had to happen eventually and this is the ONLY unique thing this game brings to the table.

To play, you have cards which generate either Tokens or Power. With Tokens, you can buy a Green card, which pertains to Gamers, or Good abilities. With Power, you defeat Evil. Aside from Boss Loot cards, Evil cards, added to your deck upon beating them, are the only way to earn victory points, which are a number in a star, on the lower left hand corner of a card... JUST LIKE ASCENSION. Just like the Tokens buy cards, Power defeats them... like in Ascension. Catching onto the pattern yet? So with so much blatantly stolen from other games, let's go into the Boss Loot cards.


Only a couple of the cards you can buy/beat...

In each game, there will be a Green Boss and a Red Boss. The bosses have Lv 1, 2, and 3 variants which essentially means that the game progressing makes them harder. From this, there are also 8 reward cards for beating/buying them. You shuffle these 8 cards and place the Lv3 card down first, then four reward cards, then the Lv2 cards, four more cards, and finally the Lv1 cards. So when you beat a Lv1 boss, you take the top card from below the boss card. When four cards have been taken, the boss levels up. This repeats until Lv3, where the card is tougher, but defeating it ends the game. It should also be noted that acquiring these boss cards but you at an excessive advantage and they are worth a bunch of points to boot. In fact, Boss Loot cards are the ONLY Green cards worth points at the end of the game, meaning running the numbers pushes every player into a Red Strategy despite the claims in the manual. Unless, by some miracle, you can push enough Boss Loot cards into your deck and force the game to end early. The Green Boss Loot cards are also powered on a d20 roll though the included d20 feels cheap and imbalanced.

Also included in the game is a place for all the cards... unless you have the strange desire of not having the cards shift all over the box. $.05 foam inserts will keep you from having to resort the bulk of the included cards everytime you move the box and, frankly, should have been included considering the price. ($45)


A sample of the Boss Cards

But with all my bitching, you would think I find nothing redeeming about the game. On the contrary, this game is fun. Fact of the matter is, when stealing, it's important to steal things that work. The reason Thunderstone, Dominion, and Ascension are ruling the Deck-Building genre is simply, they work. Thus any game that directly apes them will also work. Penny Arcade: Gamers Vs Evil works. More importantly, it's genuinely funny. In general for all players and especially for video gamers, but seeing Mr. Period or Rex Ready work in the game along with all the Penny Arcade references pushes it to that next level. Loaded with crass humor, it may not be for everyone and admittedly, when someone implores other players to Touch Weiners, you'll get odd looks from surrounding gaming tables.

Of course, right now, there is the threat of the funny wearing off with play but considering how much empty space exists in the base box set, more cards are definitely coming. In fact, there is a promo right now to add the Fruit Fucker Prime to your copy.   read


12:25 PM on 08.15.2011

Playtesting: Bedlam, Jaffe, and Smashed Puppies


This past weekend, I headed out with a mission. In my possession, I had three card games of my own design so I wanted playtesters, opinions, and generally ways to fix my creations. Using generic excuses like "picking up my copy of Quarriors," I travelled as far as Bloomington with my games in tow, hoping to share the concepts and try to track down the issues that exist.

Of course, anytime I test out a new design, I'm nervous as all fuck. The first aspect is simply placing something you worked very hard on out for display. Whether people love it or hate it, all their opinions, whether good or bad, reflect on you. No game design is perfect and sadly you, as a designer, spill your crudely drawn heart and soul onto a table for many others to come and essentially bash the holy bejeezus out of it. Even though I know the game will turn out bad, there is the confirmation that stings.

The other issue is in the simple concept that you, as the designer, know how to play the game and thus, you've built in strategies and concepts beyond the simple scoring. The challenge you face is if other players can pick up on how the game is supposed to be played. After all, the design is only as strong as people can figure out.

This reminds me of one of the many times I point to in explaining why David Jaffe is a damn good dude. Turning back the time to Calling All Cars many, many playtests. David Jaffe was blogging everything he was feeling during this time and it's 100% true. He was humble, funny, frustrated when people didn't know how to work it, and ultimately showed a bit of the nervousness I face everytime I have people play my games. David Jaffe, having met him, a cool dude. Aside from all that, guess I should get around to talking about results.


The highly controversial smashed puppy card. Some want more, some want less gore...

Haiku: The Card Game
Currently being considered for pickup from a game publisher, this is the one I have least to worry about. As a quick party game, anytime I got this one broken out, people agree it's a good party game. Criticism typically centers around having the syllable count pointed out and, well, not silly enough. In general, the feedback here is positive and no real changes are needed.

Imps Vs Puppies
This is another success. The concept is a trick taking game like Euchre or Hearts. Players have a team of Imps with different strengths and Abilities. Placing them face up let's their ability trigger while face down, their identity is secret. After most of the abilities go off, strongest imp smashes the crate which may or may not be a bomb. When the game is over, whoever smashed the most puppies, killed the most imps, and defused the most bombs, becomes the winner.

If I wanted to slave over this one for the next 6 months, I'm sure I could make it even better. Right now, people love it in the current form and a couple people wanted to buy copies during the test. So I just need to finalize some stuff and this one will be ready to go.

Bedlam Heights
Of the three, this is the one which needs fixing the most. You remember the section where I mentioned a desire to get the game working? Yeah, that's Bedlam all over. First thing is the explosions are too big and the chaining is broken. But more importantly, only I really seemed to know how to play since, of the two playtests, only I ended up with a positive score. You see, the penalty for blowing up the wrong city blocks is steep, but it's designed as such. The explosions are also too big. I'm hoping to fix this issue in a couple days and giving this another shot.


You may see this game in your local game store in late 2012...   read


12:40 PM on 08.10.2011

Puzzle Strike: Bag 'O Video Gamey Fun



The question was raised, a few podtoids ago, would you pay $60 for a new Super Puzzle Fighter II. Johnathon Holmes said absolutely. Well, Johnathon Holmes... it's time to put you money where your mouth is on this review of Puzzle Strike: Bag 'O Chips.

Released by Sirlin Games back in February, Puzzle Strike was a new twist on the deck-building genre of board games introduced by Dominion. Sirlin, fresh off designing, but still playbalancing Yomi, decided to do as Nintendo, Capcom and Midway had done. Put his game characters into a competitive puzzle game. At the time, aggressive deckbuilding games weren't really all that known. After all, there was Dominion, Tanto Cuoro, (in Japan only) Heroes of Graxia, (terrible game) and Thunderstone. Of those, Heroes was the only one that actively encouraged ruining opponents days. Soon, Ascension and Nightfall dropped but at the time, Puzzle Strike was pretty much the only PvP deckbuilder.

Which is why what they did next stands as epic. You see, he put all of the cards on thick cardboard chips and detroyed your "deck" to replace it with a nice purple cloth bag. To draw cards, you draw these chips from a bag. When the bag is empty, dump all the used chips back into the bag. So as a gimmick, what they did was pretty cool though it undoubtedly made the game more expensive to produce. Which unfortunately took the MSRP up to $60 though frugal gamers can find it for around $45.

The concept of the game is based around Puzzle Fighter, Magical Drop, and Panel De Pon (Tetris Attacks) whereas gems you "bust" could potentially become a problem for an opponent. But picking your character is important as well, as each character has different talents and abilities.

In the game, there are many types of chips with various abilities all building towards one thing... burying your opponent in gems. The first is the Gem Chips themselves. When placed in front of a player, (referred to as their Gem Pile) these gems are your doom clock. When used in your hand, however, they work like money. Next are Wound Chips, they do nothing... literally. They take up space in your hand. Action Chips are special actions where players can do stuff like make buying chips easier or defend against incoming chips. Finally there are the purple chips which perform actions on the gems in your gem pile. The action chips change from game to game so, like dominion, there's no real setup that will always be there. The gems, purple chips, and wounds, however, are always in the game. The character chips are a set of 3 chips unique to a single character.



So on your turn, you Ante (place a single 1 value gem into your gem pile) then perform an action. If, after your action, you have 10 or more gems in your gem pile, you're out of the game. If not, however, now you get to buy more chips for your bag. Finally, you refill your hand based on your gem pile. The more gems you have, (the closer to death) the more chips you get to draw. With players having to ante a chip in front of them each turn, this means you'll get, at most, 10 turns before you have to deal with the gems in front of you.

So let's talk about that since it IS the core mechanic. Now, one of the purple chips is called a Crash Gem and I'm going to refer to this action going forward as crashing a gem. What a crash gem does is destroys one gem in front of you and sends gem shards to the next player. Always the next player, you cannot choose who to hurt with crashing. The value of the gem determines how many shards get sent to the next player. By default, any gems in your gem pile are 1 Value gems. But the game has 2, 3, even the unblockable 4 valued gems.

When you crash a 3 gem, you destroy it in your pile and the broken down gem comes at your opponent in three 1 value gem shards. These gems are not in their pile yet as any chip with a purple banner can be used as a defense. For every gem they crash, they prevent one of those shards from coming down. If they crash a 1 value chip in their pile, they not only destroy a chip from their pile, they prevent one shard from coming down. Prevent shards from dropping is good enough, but yes, you can send shards back. Here is how that works. If you crash a gem that's higher in value than the shard being sent, (which is pretty much anything higher than a 1) you can send the difference at an opponent. So he crashes a gem and sends one onto you and you, in turn, crash a three. Three minus one equals two, thus you'll send two individual shards back at your opponent. All of this, however, is destroyed by the simple concept of the 4 gem. When crashing a 4 gem, all four shards, plus any produced by other gems crashed at this time, become unblockable and you just have to hope and pray you can get under 10 gems by the end of your action phase.

So with the big gems so instrumental for victory, just how in the hell do you create them? For the most part, a purple chip named Combine. You take two gems, return them to the bank, and produce a gem that's the combined value of the traded in gem. So two 1's becomes a 2, a 2 and a 1 become a 3, two 2's become a 4, etc. Now, you haven't DEALT with the gem, you've just made it a more powerful gem for when you do crash it. A 3 gem is just as bad in your gem pile as three 1 gems.

Now, let's say your opponent has 8 gems in his gem pile and you just crushed him with seven unblockable shards. When he dies, it only takes 10 gems to defeat him, thus any gems over that amount become overflow. In this way, Puzzle Strike has a very "shit rolls downhill" mechanic. Overflow spills onto the next opponent and you get to giggle maniacally because it is FULLY possible to wipe out two or more opponents on a single turn.



If there is one bad thing to be said is a lot of these concepts are confusing to first time players and the battle mats (pictured above) do a great job of explaining the game. They just don't come in the box and you have to find them on www.boardgamegeek.com.

There are also two house rules my friends and I change between in regards to the Wound chips. In the rules, it says you "buy" a wound chip whether you want one or not. These slow down your decks so we have unique ways of playing.

Rule 1: Being Broke Sucks
With this rule, we go with the "you have to buy a wound token" and change it so that you only need to buy a wound chip if you cannot buy anything else. This makes the wound chips much more aggressive as a gameplay emchanic instead of a natural consequence of the game continuing.

Rule 2: Bleed Out The Evil
With this rule, you always acquire wound chips like the rules say. However, if you reveal two wound chips from your hand at the beginning of your turn (during the ante phase), you may trash both chips as well as a chip in your discard pile/hand. This helps balance out the flood of wounds and accelerates decks.

So if any or all of this sounds cool to you, by all means, give Puzzle Strike a try. It's one of the rare successes of mixing the world of video games with the world of board games.   read


5:53 PM on 08.02.2011

Rubbish Bin: Haze Part 2


Not just another pretty face... seriously, this man is sans face...

Some games come out and just get hammered on reviews. Whether justified or not, time passes, hatred fades, and it becomes time to investigate the games that have been dubbed some of the worst games on the platform. Last blog, I talked about the history behind Haze, the reception, and the climate to which the game was released but at that point, I hadn't actually played it.

Going forward, keep this in mind. There will be spoilers to the game. No bitching, ranting, cursing, or general assholery about warnings. Since the point of these articles is to chronicle the experience of the game, it will be walking through the title.

Booting up the title brought me to an installation screen. To be truly fair, I had to remember this installation screen was legendarily bad (nearly as bad as DMC4 supposedly) and I decided to time it. In 4 minutes, the game booted and wanted an update. Fair enough, let's let that go for another minute. In 6 minutes time total, I started the game and scratched my head over how apparently hellish that was.


In the future, everyone copies SHIELD...

My Early Days in Mantel

The sun was in my face as the door to a hangar opened. Sunlight flooded the compartment as my comrads came into view. Like all FPS games, including Gears of War 2... FUCKING 2, I was being reassured everything will be fine. A hint of Nector foreshadowing and I was on deck, wandering across the helicarrier hoping to catch a glimpse of Nick Fury. What I found instead was several jarhead moronic conversations to be overheard. Part of me would have groaned at the Apocalypse Now conversation if not for the fact that I personally overheard a similar conversation from some ROTC stupids in a Campus bar. Makes me wonder if these conversations were written or overheard because, while I physically hurt at the ignorance displayed, it's not as uncommon as people like to think.

Eventually, I found the personal transport that I needed to climb onto and we flew off to the first stage. When the doors to this transport closed, one thing became certain. Mantel apparently cares more for their troops safety than modern troop transport helicopters which are about as safe as Halo vehicles. Musings aside, we touched down in a lush jungle. Given Uncharted was already out, one couldn't help but feel at least a little disappointed by the scenary but the speeches about the chemicals, all make sense so far.


Ugh... a bug... KILL IT KILL IT KILL IT!

Crash, Ride, and Drive

After fighting through the forest and finding the crash site, we're getting glimpses of breaks in the sensory override system. The nectar interruption to hear a scream, the fact that bodies fade from sight and there is no blood when shooting people, and seeing a brief glimpse of a burning village as the "tamer" version of war kicked back in. These aspects had the most ambition but the downed pilot was by far the biggest indicator.

Poorly acted, he kept asking a very important question though. "Do you see me? No... do you see ME?" Whether blatant or hinted at, there is one problem with seeing a pilot die like this. There was no blood anywhere in the cockpit. Obviously he would be dying from severe trauma as he bled out but you were spared this horrific scene. Regardless, Nectar recovered, we escaped and headed back to the carrier.

Only to be reassigned to take down "skin coat." This early? Really?!? Oh well. On the ride there, came a joke. One I found amusing but just because I like joking about such things. You accuse your commanding officer of fearing Stockholm Syndrome with Skin Coat. "You calling Sarge a fag, sir? You'd shouldn't call Sarge a fag." Stupid, low brow, and yet a heavy indictment of the kind of meat head morons who would join Mantel (or play competitively online FPS games). Why my character would join is beyond me but these idiots fit the type to a T.

After a rough landing into a hot zone, I'm introduced to my first (I assume) driving section. Grabbing the wheel, we march section to section through valleys rigged to explode because, naturally, when you're trying to protect yourself from an ALL TERRAIN VEHICLE you rig the canyons to blow. Of course my brilliant miltary strategist believe approaching an area through a tunnel makes perfect sense against an enemy that has shown no aerial combat ability. Mantel is apparently run by morons or bad level designers. Note to future game designers, if your design warrants a tunnel run, that's fine. But give us a narrative reason as to why.

Section completed, reality perception kicks in again. As a buggy spins out of control and starts to crush a mercenary, he screams, pleads, is mocked for his pain, beforce that electronic rush of juices fades him from sight. We now enter the facility where Skin Coat is holed up.

If I mentioned subtlety before, forget I said a word. Your system starts failing, the few glimpse of the nonaltered reality show a large amount of actual victims, shot and killed in horrifically violent scenes. As the system continues to break down from time to time, suddenly your gun shots produce blood but more importantly, you have blood on your hands. Before you know it, you've captured Skin Coat and are attempting to take him in. Your character loudly reacts to the horrific treatment of prisoners you commanding officer partakes in, which culminates in you turning your gun on allies. The ship is hit and everyone crashes, hard, in the swamp.


They're brown, they deserve it.... AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!

Coming Down

As I woke up in the swamp, I was coming off the Nectar and crashing pretty hard. Suppressed emotions flooded me raw as I, for some reason, followed fireflies. Mantel knew I was off the drug and was coming after me hard. No weapon, hunted, all I could do was follow an individual until, finally, I was safe.

Later, I walked with "Skin Coat," talked of my reasons for joining Mantel, and decided to join their cause. I will be going much more in depth with the bullshit logic in part four. However, my old traveling companions come out of the woodwork in a major way. Visably insane, drugged, and bloodied, my old leader looked more monster than man. Killing the final assailant, you could tell his own drugs were wearing off as he frantically tried to deny the void rushing to greet him. This was the true face of war, and I was ready for a shocking reality to hit the game.

Coming Next: Damn the Man......tel   read


10:34 AM on 07.31.2011

Competition is bad, apparently.


There may be many out there, right now, wondering how I can say such a thing. Well, I haven't said it, you guys have. More particularly, you guys have been saying it this entire time about the EA Origins service. When it was announced, I was curious. After all, the rumblings of Impulse being bought out were beginning, Games for Windows always was and always will be treated as that thing as that hobby Microsoft took up to keep them from hitting the bars on the weekend and waking up with a PC exclusive developer, and you'd have to be completely out of touch to ignore the rantings of several other publishers (like Randy Pitchford) against Valve policies. The PC gaming market needs competition in order to thrive.

But who is going to step up to the challenge? Penny Arcade tried and failed, Gamestop attempted their own route, so we obviously need someone big to attempt this and, provided they have the gumption to attempt an honest go, it should be a good thing. Right? Right?

Not according to gamers. You see, I had never before seen such an outrage and attack at an attempt at competition in my life. Lead by the screaming indignities of Jim Sterling, this mass collective of ragoholics has been ranting against Origin since E3. The bulk of the complaints being exclusive content and needing a second login. One could argue the real argument stems from no press account on Origin and a sense of entitlement is a horrible thing to deny a self-entitled individuals. But that's a harsh criticism to lobby so for now we'll just stick with not wanting a second login. (that, provided you bought an EA game in the past 3 years, you already have)

In the times between E3 and now, EA and Valve have had a bit of a falling out. Not too unsimilar from Steam's little tussle with Gamestop. You see, Gamestop and HMV refused to stock copies of games that would directly compete with their digital download service. Dawn of War II preorders were cancelled around the world and somehow, people forgot about this. The ironic part is that Valve, and Steam, while playing the victim card in these events, has the exact same kind of deal. You see, if a publisher has their own Digital Distribution service, they have to fight long and hard to get themselves on Steam. This is why Sins of a Solar Empire (nor Demigod or Elemental) never came to Steam. The only time you were allowed to come in and play is if you were simply too big to ignore. Like EA's Sims franchise, or Popcaps Peggle Empire. (amazing what not blatantly stealing other peoples games will do for your gamer cred)

But even when you're in the big boy club, you gotta straighten up and fly right. For example, all DLC purchases must be made through Steam. You cannot link your own storefront to a Steam version of a game. Likewise, let's say you bought that copy of Company of Heroes in a retail store... guess where you have to buy another copy if you want to buy the expansions on Steam? You guessed it, Steam. Valve demands exclusive Steam versions of PC games that do not play well with any other version of the game. Imagine, for a moment, if you bought a copy of Doom 3 at Walmart. But you bought the expansion from Best Buy and the game, upon installation, told you this content is not compatible with the Walmart version of this game. Back in the day, this would not have stood. But Valve and Steam are great guys and they would never do all the bad things mentioned above.

Not like EA. You see, EA struggled with a problem every PC gamer deals with. Getting you fuckers to actually pay for games. Odd, I know. So EA, like Take2, attempts DRM that is occassionally controversial. The very same DRM, by the way, that was crammed into your copy of Bioshock sold, right now, through Steam. Or how you need an additional login for Games for Windows when you buy and play Batman: Arkham Asylum on Steam. But EA, despite being a damn good studio that's fought long and hard to be a great publisher, we always forget the good they do when it's convenient to rage.



And what's another rage? Exclusive content. You notice the mention of the Steam exclusive versions above? That's not an issue, apparently. Steam exclusive DLC is also just fine. Mainly because it's on Steam, so it's forgivable. So let's say you're a console maker. It's perfectly okay for Sony to make Uncharted 3, Microsoft to buy Gears of War 3, and even Nintendo to make Zelda, but EA putting their own games on Origins as an exclusive is completely and totally out of line. Yeppers, that's what it is. But let's ask this question... with Minecraft being, arguably, the biggest thing to happen to PC gaming in years... where the fuck is it? Not on Steam. HOW DARE THEY?!?! WHO THE FUCK DOES HE THINK HE IS?!?! Oh wait... not a multimillionaire publisher so it's cool. Except he is. A multi million dollar publisher keeping his game exclusive to his distribution channel... where is the rage at this?

Of course Origin is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and has a lot of controversial TOS. So does Steam if you ever bother to fucking reading it but still. So does Battle.net, iTunes, Xbox Live, PSN, Nintendo, Amazon, or pretty much anything you agree to. But if it really bothers you, here is a simple suggestion. Write to the company you disagree with, mention your concerns, and be respectable about it. Most companies, especially their community outreach partners, do keep track of this. Calmly express your concerns and you'd be surprised what happens. Don't steal games out of protest, you only prove the protections right. (aka, Ubisoft) Don't rant and rave, internet outrage is cheap and easy to ignore. And hopefully, in time, you'll give EA the chance to become the service that Steam is
today. You gave Steam that chance. Oh wait, when it first came out, no you didn't. Amazing how todays saviors of PC gaming was a bunch of Nazis a scant 7 years ago.   read


1:41 PM on 07.24.2011

Rubbish Bin: Haze Part 1


There are games that, when released, are real stinkers. Universally panned, abused, and slammed. But like Roger Ebert's stress relief reviews, some of these games really don't deserve it and some games are given a horrible reputation in conjunction with "pile on syndrome." Games that have been bashed this horribly are often victims of the pleasure found in writing a horrible review and that is the point of these blogs. Was H4.5E truly that bad, or did it find itself in the middle of the well documented antiSony propaganda machine and overhyped by the publisher?

In the first part, I'll be going over the history of the studio, the game, the troubles prelaunch, and the reaction. In the next part, I'll be playing the first half of the game, followed by the second half, and then the conclusion. In other words, expect me to get 4 seperate blog posts out of Haze. Ubisoft should be paying me for this but fine, whatever. My pain is your pleasure.

Underappreciated Pedigree

Free Radical is one of those companies that had a very loyal fanbase. Second only to Turok: Rage Wars, their Timesplitters PS2 launch game was rare in saying, "fuck single player, people loved Goldeneye Multiplayer." Because of this dramatic shift, Timesplitters single player campaign was essentially running a course of levels. Retrieve the item, escape, win. The gem of the game is that it's multiplayer content, including a level editor, was a bevy of wealth which, true fans, could mine for hours upon hours. Trust me on this as my game saves tell the tale better than I.

Timesplitters 112 hours
Timesplitters 2 178 hours
Timesplitters 3 213 hours

The reaction to this focus, however, was largely scorn. You see, we are used to fighting games having no focus on the single player content (and to this day we still support Capcoms laziness in this area) but it's rare to see it in a shooter. Other games, like Chromehounds and Warhawk, have also taken abuse for this focus. And so, with the sequel, Timesplitters 2 added a robust and massive campaign. Considered by many as a true successor to Goldeneye, this is where the fanbase truly came in. While review scores of Red Faction 2 and Timesplitters 2 were similar, Penny Arcade once famously suggested that the choice and play of Red Faction 2 was a leading cause of lepresy.

In an era where super powered games were largely dungeon crawlers, Free Radical attempted Second Sight. Another mistimed release, it went face to face with Psi Ops. In the game, there were several sections where the morality of killing was called into question and it laid the ground work for Haze's ambitions. Otherwise, Second Sight game and went with barely a notice as Timesplitters 3 was announced.

Timesplitters 3 focused on Cortez and cranked up the humor. Considered one of the funniest games of last generation, it also introduced online gameplay to it's already massive multiplayer options. This, however, fell upon deaf ears. Like many, Jeff Gerstman stated in a gamespot review, "In a world where Halo 2 exists, why do we want Timesplitters: Future Perfect?" Suffice it to say, it did well but the luster of Timesplitters 2 was apparently wearing off and their next project had to be ambitious.


Supposedly the worst graphics ever...

Another Exclusive in a Crowd of Hated Exclusives

Looking back at the reactions to PS3 exclusives, it's a wonder we're where we are today. Resistance sucked compared to Gears of War. (which was like comparing The Beatles to Lady Gaga, but this is the face of games journalism then and now) Untold Legends sucked compared to Oblivion. Heavenly Sword sucked because it was too short. Motorstorm sucked compared to Forza. These are all comparisons that were made at the time by major gaming news outlets. The attitude was, if you were a PS3 exclusive, you took a LOT of heat before you even came out. Is it a wonder, then, that this was also the era were many games were breaking exclusitivity? Haze held true on pledged allegiance, and some might say (Fox News tactic, gotta love it) it took heavy abuse just for this fact.

The other aspect was Ubisoft, not Free Radical, was overselling this game. "The $70 million dollar Halo killer that's the reason you bought your PS3 and will crush Xbox 360. Pay attention kiddies, this one will destroy you all and make you it's bitch." Haze was getting two very different messages sent out. On the publisher side of things, Haze was going to topple the gaming industry and recreate shooters in its image. From the developers side of things, they were talking up what they were trying to accomplish with the story and attempting to attach morality to shooting games. One story was told in every magazine, at every press conference, and on every gaming blog. The other story was being told exclusively through Game Developer Magazine and Gamasutra. So it's easy to see how one story was being outshouted by the other.

But Free Radical also had other problems. First, what they were attempting to accomplish was never done before and only dabbled in with titles like Second Sight and Bioware game.s (Which still limit their morality to "kill babies" or "save guy") So there was no roadmap on "this is how you paint these characters a certain way to imply emotion connotation." The other, and perhaps biggest issue, was Free Radical had no experience on a next gen platform and Cell, while more powerful than the architecture running Xbox 360, was still largely unknown, untested, and only Insomniac, Kojima Productions, and Naughty Dog were making huge strides unlocking this machine and more importantly, sharing this information. Bogged down, inexperienced, and reviled, Free Radical marched on until Ubisoft finally said, "finish it and ship it or we pull the plug." Of course this is unprovable and it's mostly heresay, but that was the general attitude. Finish Haze, release Haze, and move on with your life.


Generic yet cool soldier design...

We Love To Hate You

What Haze tried to accomplish was attaching morality to the killing in every shooting game out there. A rough trick to be certain. They attempted this by focusing on a shifted perception towards a righteous cause, the kinds of tactics that have been proven in almost all theatres of war. That was the core concept of the game.

When Haze dropped, like all PS3 exclusives at the time, it had the heavy burden of validating the hardware. Haze, as a game, had to prove it was worth $660 dollars, a task rarely expected of games in any other era. Some reviewers came forward and said, "Not a good game, but playable." Would it have dropped in the middle of titles like Prey and The Darkness, the bar would still be set pretty low. Modern Warfare, Uncharted, Warhawk, and even Halo 3 had all come out, adjusting the bar far beyond reasonable expectations. Right around the corner, and even more damning, MGS4 was due in less than a month. As a symbol of the much hated PS3, or a failure to live up to the hype, Haze rubbed some people the wrong way and boy, were they going to pay for their crimes.

After Haze's public shaming, the game refused to shift copies at retail. Within two weeks, $20 was being marked off MSRP leading Ludwig Kietzman to associate Batman's difficulty disposing a bomb to Haze's ultimate destiny. (Yet these same parallels were not being made for Portal 2, Hot Pursuit, Mortal Kombat, or other games people liked) As I followed Haze's progress through interviews on Gamasutra, I was shocked at the reaction and wondered if I should wait. My copy was acquired for a scant $10 and sat on my shelf until recently, when I booted up and installed the game...

Next Episode: My Early Days In Mantel...   read


12:43 PM on 07.03.2011

Contest Revoked: Don't you want to Design An Imp?


This is Dr. Peepers. Dr. Peepers is one of the many Imps rushing, mallet in hand, to smash a crate of Puppies. I'm making a card game right now and YOU can help. but why would you do that?

Sorry, contest cancelled due to lack of interest. Maybe next time.   read


9:26 AM on 07.01.2011

Violent Young Imps

Contest is cancelled, sorry. Here is the deal, I am currently working up a prototype of a card game I dubbed "Violent Young Imps." To give a little flavor text, here is the plotline as it will appear in the instruction manual...

In the deepest of holes, so far from the wimps
Lay a ravenous clan of fastidious Imps
For they fight and they scrap for whatever they gets
Until some evil soul armed them all with mallets
For a task that needs doing, and no one knows why
Perhaps over population, but yeah... puppies must die
Someone bundles them up, in their nice wooden crates
And they drop down the chutes to their ultimate fates
Thus this cycle continues, perhaps to their shame
Til these violent young imps have turned it to a game
And the beast that delivers decides to comply
For if fairness what counts, even Imps have to die.
So they rush, fight, jump, claw to their ultimate doom.
Since some crates now have bombs that, when smashed. will go boom.
So the teams have been chosen for a game meant to please
and the winners the team that smashed mostly puppies.

How the game works is simple. Each player starts with a team of Imps labeled 1-8. Each round, players send an imp to fight over the crate. If the Imp is placed face up, their special ability takes place. face down, their value is a secret. First matching value imps go home, then special abilities trigger, the crate is scored (some crates have bombs and will kill your Imp), and the Imps go home. I have 7 Imps designed easily, before I went to work on the 8th, I decided "what the hell, I could promote my blog with this and give Dtoid community members something more to do than comment and dice rolls to win something." So I need you, my children, to design the Eighth Imp. Here is the current lineup and their explainations in gameplay terms.



1: Mr. Sparkles
With a spring in his step and pretties that sway
He will find all his old friends and blow them away
Meaning: If Mr. Sparkles is in a competition, he, and every Imp there, is blown up but not before scoring the crate. Mr. Sparkles resolves right before the Imps Go Home phase.

2: Lame Jim
He favors his chances, though he knows he's still wrong
For he deals out his best blow to disable the strong
Meaning: After matches are sent away, Jim returns the strongest from the meeting back home as he leaves.

3: Dr. Peepers
Super weak in a fight, though he'll scream and he'll hex
As he's limping away, he'll at least see what's next.
Meaning: Provided he survives the round, Dr. Peepers players get to see whether the next crate is a bomb or not.

4: Average Joe
He ain't very good, though he talks a mean jive
Least when the dust settles, he knows he'll survive.
Meaning: Average Joe can never die unless he's played face down.

5: Eldrich Dave
As with all freshly dead, their energy's still rife
Should the next round be won, Dave returns them to life.
Meaning: If this player wins the next round, regardless of it being a puppy or a bomb, the player gets to revive a dead Imp on their team.

6: Koga Maru
A man of the shadows, a killer quite slick
Though he kills off the weakest, he at least does it quick.
Meaning: Koga Maru, when placed face up, will kill the lowest valued Imp in the battle before his ability triggers.

7: Big Drew and Stew
Though not too much skillful, their trick is quite clean
Their only advantage that they're doubly mean.
Meaning: If played face up, Big Drew counts as 14 instead of 7.

Contest has been cancelled, so sorry. I'll try something like this again later. Sorry.   read





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