Archives for category: Something Cool

This is the most awesome game ever.

Well, maybe that’s a bit strong.  But it’s one of the most cackle-inducing displays of awesome-ness I’ve seen recently.

Stick-figure kung-fu, with every over-the-top ass-kicking move imaginable, fast and smooth and fluid animation . . . it’s seriously awesome.  Every fighting game tries to create the feeling of being the most bad-ass warrior who has ever lived, but all too often they get bogged down by the actual mechanics of fighting in an open environment, and you end up jump-kicking against the wall and looking silly.

By restricting you control in the most severe way possible, One Finger Death Punch allows for a more cinematic experience while still giving the player a modicum of control.  Your little stick-figure dude whips out the most awesome kung-fu ass whuppin’ imaginable at a blinding pace, and you feel like a badass just clicking along.

And the game modes . . . utter brilliance.  Light sword round?  Why not.  Oh, and a numchuck round, because of course.  And a thunderstorm round, because seriously, you have to.

If you love kung-fu, you owe it to yourself to play this game.

One Finger Death Punch, by Silver Dollar Games.


Steam has a lot of games now.  Here are some new ones that look kind-of interesting.

Qualia 3 – Evolve your entity in a Shmup-style melee game set underwater.  Maybe.

The Last Federation – This is by the guys who made AI War, which is very highly regarded.  The semi-turn-based combat system reminds me a bit of Space Rangers.  I’m definitely curious.

Circuits – Anything with logic gates intrigues me, as one of my formative gaming experiences was playing Robot Odyssey as a kid.


When have you played a CCG enough to feel that you know the game?  That’s a question I’ve been pondering the past couple weeks as I’ve been learning Netrunner.  Netrunner is not, technically, a CCG.  It’s a “Living Card Game,” wherein you can cheaply buy all the cards in fixed sets.  I bought the base set, which comes in a ridiculously oversized box, and the first set of expansion decks, the “Genesis Cycle,” in a lump, and have been playing in the mornings with my regular opponent.

There’s a Runner, or the offensive player, and the Corporation, the defensive player.  The Runner wants to steal Agendas from the Corporation, while the Corporation wants to protect Agendas until they can be Advanced, or scored.  The game is over when one side or the other has 7 points of Agenda either stolen or advanced, or when the Runner is dead.  Corporations are immortal, of course.

I’ve avoided looking up strategy or tactics online, and have instead been enjoying the slow process of learning the game, putting decks together, trying out new ideas, and generally getting smashed no matter which side I play.  So far, I’ve put together a generally competent Shaper deck, a really nasty Criminal deck, and a hardware-gimmick Shaper deck.  I’m still feeling out the gimmick deck, and played around briefly with a virus-Anarch deck that was really bad.  On the Corp side, I’ve had great success with a straight-up Weyland deck, have made a middling NBN trace deck, and am going to try out an HB deck soon.

Corporation is definitely more challenging.  It is also where this game’s real strength come out – the importance of execution relative to deck construction.  Back in the day, I found that well-played MTG decks more or less played themselves.  There wasn’t much to the actual game other than seeing your pre-planned combos come into play.  The deck worked or it didn’t, and making it work in each match was just a matter of drawing the right cards.  Netrunner demands much more, I think, and especially from the corporate player.  At least, it seems to.  Maybe this perception is just the result of my ToTaL NOOB status, and that after enough play it will become automatic as well.  Who knows.

It’s been a lot of fun.  My regular gaming opponent has never played a CCG or a deck-builder before, but is starting to get the hang of things.  He may even try building a deck soon.

This game is as goofy as the title suggests.  You take on the role of a heroic Star Nerd, who must use the great and mighty power of arithmetic to summon allies and fight Space Treachery!

No, seriously, that’s what you do.

The game has two very unlikely pieces.  The core gameplay is a series of arithmetic puzzles.  Can you use addition, subtraction, and multiplication to turn a set of 8 numbers into the exact casting Integers demanded by your cards?  And, just as important, can you use up all your numbers ever turn, for the CalcuLord Bonus?  Units, once summoned, appear on a minimal 3-lane map, and gradually push their way towards the enemy base.  This aspect of the game has some depth as well, as there are all kinds of different units with different abilities which match up better or worse against different kinds of enemies.

Of course, you can customize both your deck of unit cards, and your deck of numbers, CCG style.  That’s the other half of the game.

I’ve just started dabbling in the game, but I’ve played enough to see that it works.  Against all odds, the game actually manages to be a lot of fun, enough to make me put up with puzzles.  I’m normally not a puzzle guy – just see my take on Incredipede.  Yet somehow, this works for me.

And, the designer is perfectly okay if you just use it to make kids practice math.  I would totally do that, if I had a kid.

CalcuLords is available on the iPad, and perhaps other mobile platforms as well.

Mobile is generally known as the home of crap free-to-play scamware, engineered to exploit the flaws in human psychology and trick people into wasting money while giving them next to no actual gameplay as a reward.

However, the iPad is also a wonderful platform for boardgames, and has been graced with a number of truly excellent boardgame ports in the last year.  Agricola is one of them.

Agricola manages a true miracle of alchemy, turning what has to be one of the most boring themes ever (become the most average peasant possible!) into a dense and tricky strategy game.  It plays really, really well as a purely solo game, wherein you try to match a ever rising score total through sheer mastery of the system.  It plays really, really well as a 2 player game, where you have to quickly distinguish your strategy from that of your rival to avoid conflicts over a limited number of resources which you both need.   It plays really, really well with 3, 4, or 5 players as well.  It’s just an incredible design.

The iPad port is, in many ways, distinctly superior to the boardgame.  Agricola is a beast to set up, as there are a TON of different little colored chits you need to lay out.  It requires a ton of fiddly little recordkeeping ever turn, refreshing the building resources and animals, and it requires a fair bit of attention during the Harvest phase, when you have to accurately feed your family, harvest crops, and increase animal counts accordingly.  And finally, scoring is fairly complicated – at least until you’ve memorized all 10 categories in the scoring table.  On the iPad, all of these problems simply disappear.  All that fiddly record-keeping is automated.  All those chits are kept and placed automatically, and all that complicated scoring is effortless.  It’s easy to follow, and it’s just better.

I discovered Wargame ALB last summer.  It is a really brilliant RTS title.  You control a mixed force of air and land units from the NATO and Warsaw Pact armies circa 1985, and command them in fairly small engagements over varied terrain.  Here are some of the really great things about the Wargame ALB.

  • There’s no base-building, and only minimal resource management.  You have deployment points, which you use to call-in units off map.  These are produced slowly over time, depending on how many zones you control.  You available off-map units are determined before the battle begins via a really fun Army Construction system.  Building a balanced army, and learning how to use your units, is the heart of the game.
  • The game’s micro is really interesting, and does not feel stupid and artificial at all.  You have to match up unit type and engagement range to set up favorable mismatches – confronting a group of APC’s in the open with Tanks, for example.
  • The most critical thing at all times is air cover, because without AA any force will be mercilessly destroyed from the air.  So, engagements come down to figuring out how to break the enemy’s air cover, use your air to knock out their missile units, and then bring in your tanks to mop up.  None of this is easy.
  • The game has the best Recon system I’ve ever seen.  Different units have different levels of visibility, and different levels of Optics.  High Optics recon units can see a lot from a distance, while most units are nearly blind to anything that’s not in the open and right in front of them.  Finding your enemies first, and then knocking them out before they can effectively respond, is the ultimate coup.
  • Learning to effectively attack the enemy is hard, but incredibly satisfying when you pull it off.
  • Learning to use your air units effectively, without getting them shot down on their first mission, is just as tricky.

All of this has been said before, as the game was universally lauded by strategy critics upon release.

What is really, really amazing about this game is that it has a super-fun single-player campaign.  It just started working properly on my machine after the recent patches, which is why I’ve started playing the game again.  It’s a dynamic campaign on a strategic map, and you’re given objectives at the beginning.  You start with a pool of political points, which you can use to call in new units or to perform special strike missions.  When your unit meets up with an enemy unit, there’s a battle, and depending on the point differential and the total morale level of the units, the battle will result in unit destruction, unit retreat, or the continuation of the battle the next day.  Every battle wears your units out – if you threw away all your tanks in one engagement, you’re not getting any of them back.  The enemy also plays by the same rules, so if you know you knocked out their air in a previous battle, you’ll be able to take advantage of that in the next engagement.

In the past couple days, I’ve played through the first two campaigns.  The first is pretty easy, to give you a feel for the system, but the second campaign is a bit more challenging.  You have to deal with several Pact mechanized and armored divisions using a bunch of infantry and airborne units, and this is not an easy task.  Oh, how I would have killed for some simple, cheap tanks in these battles, but the NATO paras simply don’t have them, which forced me to figure out how to utilize all kinds of alternatives.   Even against a mediocre AI that had no idea how to use artillery, this was an interesting challenge.

High Frontier Colonization, the new expansion and total re-writing of High Frontier, is one I’ve anticipated for a while.  It seems to explicitly address the problems in the original regarding the endgame, and provides all kinds of really interesting super-future things to do.  The original expansion added complexity to the game, but really didn’t provide much of a motive to use it.  This one looks good.

Pax Porfiriana is a card-game reworking of the original Lords of the Sierra Madre, one of Phil Eklund’s first games.  I picked it up because it was going out of print.  Hopefully it’s playable with two players, or is simple enough for classroom usage (Hah!), or I don’t think it will get much play.

Netrunner is the new living-card-game version of the original Netrunner, by the same guy who designed Magic the Gathering.  I still have a soft spot in my heart for Magic, and for CCG’s in general, and this one may well fit into my regular gaming routine, provided I can make a convert of my regular gaming partner.  I’ve opened it up and given the rules a thorough reading, but the only real comment I have at the moment is that I’m really amazed by the lore of this game – for a horrible reason.  Somehow, they made the evil corporations more sympathetic than the freedom-fighter hackers, even to a hard-left former-union-activist such as myself.  Amazing.

This is a bit of a departure from my normal fare, but sometimes you just feel like hitting things, you know?  Guacamelee is a ton of fun.  It’s a simple brawler/platformer with some absolutely gorgeous art and great music.  I love hitting guys, and have even gotten into stringing combos.  There are a few too many jumping puzzles for my taste, but I’ve powered through them because the whole package is so great.

I learned my first hex-based wargame from my Dad when I was in elementary school.  He taught me Conquistador, which is a cool game in theory but actually pretty awful.  We also played the quite solid Blitzkrieg, the rather obtuse Sixth Fleet (the older version – the newer version was just incomprehensible), and the not terribly interesting Oil War.  We dabbled a little bit in The Russian Campaign as well, but never learned it well enough to appreciate what a gem it is – I only learned later how well regarded it was.  Oh yeah, and GEV. 🙂

Despite all that, I never really got into wargaming on the PC.  Sure, I played lots of strategy titles, but actual PC Wargames always managed to drive me away.  It was a whole variety of things, chief amongst them the “stand-alone scenario” problem.  I always wanted big, integrated and strategic campaigns, and never got used to the idea of standalone battles.

I’ve gotten better, but I still can’t claim to be a serious wargamer.  That said, it’s been a real joy to discover Unity of Command.  It’s a fairly simple hex-based wargame about the East Front that is just incredibly simple and fun to play.  I can’t say anything that hasn’t been said in a ton of reviews already, but I can wholeheartedly recommend the game to anyone with an interest in turn based strategy games.

The interview and preview over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun on the upcoming Alien : Isolation makes it sound like the game has a few elements from the Space Engineer idea I put up a few weeks ago.  You’re stuck on a space station, you have no weapon, you need to hide from the Alien, and have environment-related objectives to deal with.  The screenshots show a welding torch being used to open up an access hatch by force.  The game sounds pretty interesting.