Tim Reviews a Comic Book: James Bond 007 Vargr

007: Vargr an Exercise in Futility.  By Tim Mattes

 

james bond 007 comic book covers vargr variations

 

Warren Ellis has long been a favorite writer of mine.  From the first time I read through Transmetropolitan to the confusing reads of Bad Worlds and the like I have been enthralled with his writing style and the way that he can take real world scenarios and inject insane science fact into it.  When you read Warren Ellis’ works you find yourself looking up the principles that he presents to see if they are true or could even be possible only to discover that they are in fact completely plausible or real things.

I have followed Warren Ellis to the darkest depths of Publisher whoring (Red2) and have witnessed surprise nuggets of Genius in his works (Iron Man:Extremis).  I have read his novels and I follow him on the social media outlets that he subscribes to.  I love everything the man writes.  I feel like he could wipe his ass on a broadsheet and send it to Marvel and I will buy the special edition hardcover release of it.  So imagine my delight when I found out that Warren Ellis was doing a 007 run.  I felt like it was the perfect fit with the current film run being a grittier more violent Bond and Warren Ellis injecting his own bizarre form of writing into the series would make for the greatest Bond story ever told.

How could I have been so fucking wrong?

The first issue has a multitude of flaws that I could rant on about until my fingers fall off in a neck-bearded super rage.  That isn’t going to happen though.  I have taken my Xanax and ingested the necessary amounts of tobacco to make it through slamming my favorite comic book writers work in the hopes that it isn’t his fault.  I know that wishful thinking in comics is futile but I can dream right? (Before Watchmen I’m looking at your scarred version of what could have been.)

007:Vargr Issue One is one of the most pointless issues of a series that I have ever read.  Completely anticlimactic and devoid of any kind of energy or tempo.  Not only do you have to get to the eighth page to read a single word, The only interesting part of the issue are the last two pages.  James Bond starts the issue off as a silent badass and ends it looking like one of Archer’s still born abortions.  At no point once Bond starts talking do I feel like he is a super spy.  He seems like someone that got confused and walked into the wrong building and just went with it.  The set up of Bond not having his lady gun on british soil is so beyond transparent it actually made me cringe.  I haven’t cringed reading comics since I ventured into Steve Niles’ earlier works.  The final two pages finally offer the Warren Ellis science bullshit that I look for in his work and it barely scratches the itch.  I know that we will never get a Fell Volume two or a Before Transmet, but unless this series takes a violent spin down the Ellis rabbit hole it will go down as the worst run I have read from Ellis (Congrats Thor you are off the hook).  This doesn’t mean that I won’t be buying it and reading it, but considering that it is one of only ten issues I have bought this year it will make me question buying Warren Ellis’ single issues in the future.  This was a huge factor in me going to trades only for the last six years.  The bad single issue makes me sad, I don’t want to spend upwards of twenty dollars on monthly issues and then buy the trade only to have buyers remorse from the overall story.

Dynamite tricked me into another series from them and like always I was crushed.  The worst part about this first issue has nothing to do with the story.  No, It has to do with Dynamite’s marketing of the book.  Ten dollars for an artless variant?  24 fucking covers?  Why the Fuck do I need a short box to store an issue one?  I am relieved that I hated this issue so I don’t have to hunt down all of the variant covers.

All begrudgery aside, Jason Masters has done a skillful job polishing up a turd.  His artwork invokes a feeling of nostalgia and have at least salvaged enough respect in me to buy issue two.

Fuck this shit.

 

Tim Mattes knows nothing about comics and probably shouldn’t be writing reviews for them, but the internet gives him an outlet and he knows that at least three people will read this.  And in the end, three is all you need.  

Infiltration or Why Can’t We Be Friends?

By: Tim Mattes

The Android universe consists of three games so far. A massive mystery game called Android, a re-theme of Richard Garfield’s Netrunner in the Living Card Game format called Android: Netrunner, and Infiltration.   All three games are very different in style, gameplay, and overall mechanics. They are unified by a cyberpunk world and the people that live in it.

download (1)

In Infiltration you take on a criminal that has been hired by Mr. White to steal a prototype of a helper robot.  As you go through the building you encounter various obstacles and are given the opportunity to steal other data for your many, many criminal contacts.  As you continue to run through the threat level goes higher and higher.  If it reaches ninety-nine before you exit the building you are toast.  The survivors count up their haul and whoever stole the most goods wins.

download (2)

My first issue with this game is that every description I heard of it before I bought it or saw the box lead me to believe that it was a board game.  It is not.  It is a card game that plays like a Board game.  The plus side to that is that it is easily portable.  My second issue with the game and this one gets a bit heavy, is that the game itself is only fun once or twice.  Running though stealing and stabbing your friends is a fun mechanic but there are so many games out there today that I cannot say that this one is superior to a munchkin (Steve Jackson) or Student Bodies (Smirk and Daggar).   The only thing that keeps me playing Infiltration over and over and over again is the fact that it is set in the Android Universe.  It’s loaded with little easter eggs that any Android or Netrunner fan will love and although it is older than Android: Netrunner it is still relevant to the current story being told.  Infiltration fits in as a nice quick game that continues the mythos of the Android Universe.  Our first playthrough had me geeking out at all of the references and card art that I knew from Netrunner and the fact that Gabe is a playable character was a nice touch.  All in all if you are looking for a game that has less book keeping than Munchkin and won’t make your whole play group salty go for Infiltration.  If you are a Netrunner player or have players in your group then go for it.  But if backstabbing and stealing don’t speak to you as a player then you can skip this one.

Final Score 7.8/10

 

In Security, or A Case of the Mondays

fab6f73df617a7add4ffbae503bfa370_large

By Timothy Mattes

In the dawn of my Kickstarter funding career I would look at a game and if I felt even the most remote interest in playing it, or subjecting my friends to playing it, I would back it.  I was deeply rooted into the LCG Netrunner so anything cyberpunk immediately raises an eyebrow from me.  When I saw Koen Hendrix’s In Security, a dice game of hacking into your corporate network to collect secrets to blackmail your way to a better position, I thought “Netrunner: the Dice Game”.  I wasn’t spot on with the assumption but I was not far off.  In Security could easily be dropped into the Android universe as a spotlight game into the lives of the people living day to day similar to Infiltration.   Instead of focusing on Major corporations and Superstar Hackers you are just a normal peon in the corporate landscape.  That Youtube How To video you about hacking basic servers is going to pay off in dividends after the appalling quarterly review you just received.  On your lunch breaks you gain access to the mainframe with a couple other salty coworkers.  You are all trying to gain enough information to put that fat cat boss of yours on his back foot. You are going to force a promotion.  On your turn you can hack deeper into the server to gain new information, or you can just dig through the information that the previous person dug up.  The first player to gain the proper amount of dirt gets the promotion and the rest of you return to your awful lives.

The first time we put In Security on the table I was excited.  While we were playing I became disappointed as I realized the game was not what I was expecting.  However, by the time we finished our first play through I found a game that plays like the antithesis of Antoine Bauza.  There are many ways to get to your victory, many ways to trick your fellow players into forgetting about you just long enough for you to rocket past them, but there is only one win condition.  The first over the finish line wins.  The most interesting dynamic of this game is the play difference from three to six players.  The Game itself scales well between players, but the magic happens when you play a six player game followed immediately by a three player game.  Everything changes, the way you talk, your body language, the plays you make and when you make them.  A six player game is a knock down drag out war for power, a three player game is a nuclear holocaust.  Everybody plays nice in the three player game until the first person gets “caught”. Once a strategy is shown then all hell breaks loose and it is a beautiful mayhem.  All in all for the ten dollars I paid for this one off Kickstarter exclusive I am very pleased.  Koen has created a stylized cool micro game that rivals Love Letter and Coup.  You know that we live in a Golden Age of Tabletop gaming when an absolutely brilliant game can be designed and created on a dare.

Final Score: 7.5/10 While it is fun to play it doesn’t have a tone of replay-ability with the same group of players.

For more information or to reach out to Koen to see if he will reprint In Security please check out the Kickstarter page, just search In Security under tabletop games.

 

And with that, this has been a review from your humble moderator.

Adventure Time Card Wars: Twelve Minutes to Make a Game

By: Timothy Mattes

The premise of the show is simple, the last human boy and his brother a magic shape-shifting dog are heroes in a kingdom made out of candy that is threatened daily by a demented King that controls Ice and another King that is Anarchy incarnate.  Simple stuff.  So when an episode came out that features Finn the human playing Jake the dog at Jake’s favorite card game, Card Wars, everyone took it for what it was.  That being a twelve minute filler episode that shows you that you don’t always have to win to have a good time.  Nobody expected an entire collectible card set to be produced from it.  But that is exactly what Cryptozoic has done.

images (1) images (2)

Adventure Time: Card Wars is a two player card combat game that uses prebuilt decks based on the characters controlling them.  It is played over a series of rounds where the player builds up their characters or attaches buildings to specific combat lanes.  The first player to lose 25 life loses the game and is crowned the Dweeb.  The game uses mechanics present in almost every well-established magic based Collectible Card Game.  Using spells and creatures to clear a path to be able to damage your opponent while flooping(turning a card ninety degrees) cards to gain a special effect for the turn.

images (3) download (3)

The game is not the easiest to learn or even understand.  Complicated turn structure and confusing rules make interpreting the game a bit of a bear.  That said, I love the game.  I love the fact that none of the cards are from the show other than creatures played during the one twelve minute card wars episode.  I love that the show has not revisited the game and that the game is still successful on its own.  Card Wars is not a great game, however it manages to be an ok game and does that incredibly well.  The strategy and depth are not intense and the overall experience can be miserable yet I still find myself buying the next set and playing it all over again.  I cannot explain why I feel this way but I know that I enjoy playing Card Wars even when I’m not having fun playing Card Wars.  It is a bizarre phenomenon.

images

There are currently four Two player collectors sets released for Card wars as well as a booster pack set called For The Glory and a Heroes pack that comes with oversized hero cards that give your deck a boost (similar but not quite to commander in the collectible game from Wizards).  Deck construction is fun but can become broken if you try too hard.

download (2)

Overall the game is a pass, if I’m doing my job as a proper reviewer and not injecting too much of my own personal emotions into the suggestion.  But I must say if you are even a little bit intrigued by the Idea of playing this game just get one of the two player sets and try it.  You might very well feel the same way that I do.

Final Score: 6.5/10

Boss Monster: or how I learned to hide princesses in another castle

boss_monster_retail_box-small

By Timothy Mattes

When one thinks of side scrolling castle/dungeon crawlers Mario and Castlevania stand out as the staples of quality gaming.  The boys at Brotherwise Games have quite literally stumbled onto the quintessential side scrolling tabletop game.  Boss monster has you take on the role of an epic boss from an 8-bit world.  You slowly build your dungeon to lure in heroes from the local town. Some are after loot, others magical spells, some practice the dark arts, and some just want a fight worthy enough to make them leave their local tavern.  Each turn you build a room in your dungeon and carefully kill the heroes that come through it. If you fail to kill them before they reach you then you get a punch in the face.  Get too many punches and your boss gets killed and you see the Game Over sign flash before your eyes.  If you get ten heroes to meet their untimely demise within the walls of your dungeon you have harvested enough souls to earn bragging rights amongst your boss brethren.

Boss Monster proves what Munchkin could not, a game can be funny and satirical of a genre without being so complicated that it misses a wider audience.  Boss monster boils down to a draw one play one tableau building game.  At its core it is a simple numbers and probability game, but nobody cares about the core of a game.  Where Boss Monster shines is in the theme, something that was applied in the thirteenth hour of design.  A stylized 8bit world full of Movie, Tv, Comic and video game references that will make even the most fringe fan of nerd culture squee with delight.

My first play through of Boss Monster left me with a feeling of contentment in a non-cooperative game that I hadn’t felt since Alhambra.  The game itself has funny screw your neighbor plays and an uncanny ability to allow you to set yourself up for failure.  Overall the game offers a large variety of choices and combinations that will make each game different.  It also has something that many games strive for and fall short on delivering, the people you play with become a mechanic of the game.  If you are playing with aggressive players you are more inclined to play defensively, if everyone at the table is a pacifist then you can go for big combos that won’t hurt anyone.  If it is a blend of the two then you have an intense struggle for dominance.  All said and done I enjoy Boss Monster. It is not in my top ten games of all time due to the fact that the game play can become stale for my tastes. But the merit of a game created by two brothers that filled a niche that appeared to be dominated by Steve Jackson is not something to take for granted.  Boss Monster is a fun light game that can be the beginning or the end of an epic night of gaming.  If you play Boss Monster and you feel it is too simple of a game I recommend adding the Tools of a Hero Kind expansion.  It makes the heroes harder and adds a few extra tricks to your dungeon.

If you are a fan of old school video games, or if you are a fan of the bad guy, then Boss Monster is probably right up your alley.  If you are tired of Munchkin and want something that is a little easier on your gaming group then go for it.   This game truly transcends the tabletop gaming genre and is the first true cross-platform game.  We have been given a real gift from Brotherwise Games, Put down the controller, take off the headset, and play face to face.

Final Score: 9.5/10  I cannot get enough of this game.

For more information on Brotherwise Games and the future of Boss Monster please listen to Episode 42 of Sorry Man, I Farted or visit their website at www.Brotherwise games.com

 

And with that, this has been a review from your humble moderator.

Zoneplex or Progressive Concept Rock: The Board Game

Zoneplex

It is the late 70’s, a group of friends are sitting around a poker table in the basement of a bi-level home in Anytown, USA.  Hanging on the walls are various Rush, Yes, and Velvet Underground poster. The walls themselves are wood paneling. The carpet a disgusting mix of green, yellow, and orange in a calming shag.  The room smells a little musty and it is never quite dry.  Along the walls are various bookshelves full of Dungeons and dragons rulebooks, a series of spiral bound notebooks containing multiple campaigns, comic books, and records.  On the floor is a console TV with an Atari attached to it.  On the wall opposite the TV is a stereo, the warm glow of the green light signifying that the receiver is on and the turntable just above it is spinning hypnotically.  Through the large wooden housed speakers you hear it, two sharp chords and what sounds like a space ship. Three more sharp chords followed by one that echoes.  Three repeating chords that give way to a cacophony of sheer ecstasy and you hear him, the voice of our people. The mouthpiece of the weird, the socially outcast, the cool kids.  “And the meek shall inherit the Earth”.  The group at the table cannot be bothered with the growing intensity of Rush’s 2112. They themselves are in an epic battle fighting for control of the universe.  As the table comes into focus you see a pyramid full of the manifestations of all of mankind’s fears, and among them are a handful of monks.  You behold as this group guides these Monks deeper into the pyramid banishing their fears as they go, every so often being reminded that fear itself can be downright terrifying.  One of them sees an opening and takes it. A light at the top of the pyramid shines, so bright that the room, the records, even the music disappears into it.  When reality comes back into focus the leader of the group has transformed and you see that they control all of everything. They have conquered the Zoneplex and have been deemed worthy to control the Universe.  A series of high fives culminates in this group of heroes cracking the last few cans of soda. The night grows darker, swallowing them all.

Zoneplex is one of those games that a description of gameplay does not justify it in any way.  It actually detracts from the magic that is the game.  A build as you go game board provides avenues of strategy and discovery that ultimately lead to the pinnacle of the game, the top of the pyramid.  As you travel through the pyramid you are met by monsters that attempt to stop you.  Defeat them and claim their essence as proof that you have conquered that fear.  Three different types of fear await you. If you can defeat all three then you are worthy to enter the pinnacle.  The first to achieve this wins.  Zoneplex is played very similar to Munchkin, it starts out cooperative and after the pyramid is completed it becomes a free for all.  This game is the epitome of basement table top gaming in the dawn of the genre.  It is a board game version of epic DnD campaigns, too many snacks, and Mountain Dew.  I fear that if I go too much into the game play it will scare you away from this game, I do not want to do that. If you are a gamer and you love the strange nostalgia of older games, then Zoneplex is for you.  If it were created in the late 70’s or the early 80’s we would be holding this over our heads screaming “THIS is what a game should be!”.  Too often these days a reviewer will latch onto a game and say that it is what a game should be and all other games fall short because of its existence.  Zoneplex is not that type of game.  It transcends all of that bullshit and presents a snapshot of an era long forgotten in a way that anyone who at least knows of that time can see.  It opens a world of nostalgia if you allow it to.

Zoneplex is a beautifully crafted masterpiece created by Mysterion Games and released by the Game Crafter and it is magic in a box.  If you ever have the opportunity to play it with a group of friends that you genuinely love to game with please do.  Otherwise get a copy for yourself find at least two other people and give it a spin.  See if you can reclaim your piece of history and capture the snapshot that our parents have forgotten.

Final Score: 9/10

And with that, this has been a review from your humble moderator.

 

 

Monstrous: Another God Loving Dexterity Game

By: Timothy Mattes

Dexterity games hold a special place in my heart.  It is rare that a game can take a mundane task of physical prowess and turn it into something that makes you better than your peers.  It is the only mechanic in gaming that can truly level a playing field and make the newest player the best player.  Whether it is flicking something across the room, slowly tapping out a block, or playing a glorified game of 52 pick-up, dexterity games change the landscape of strategy gaming.

download (1)

Monstrous is a brilliant example of this.  I have played card throwing games before and they always feel a little, well, light.  There is little to no risk/reward and the scoring is usually a nightmare.  Monstrous breaks this mold by offering easy score tracking and a play state that bridges the gap between dexterity nonsense and deep strategy.  Each player is attempting to destroy the cities of ancient Greece. The cities are represented by cards laid out in the center of the table.  The part where this game truly starts to shine is the bluffing aspect to your decisions.  Your cards all have abilities and you can throw your opponents off by making it appear that you are attempting to destroy one city when all you are doing is misdirection.  It reminds me a lot of if smash-up was a dexterity game.  Overall gameplay is fun, the shelf appeal is outstanding as the artwork really pops and makes passers-by want to know what the game is.  Learning the game is simple enough and replay-ability is on par with most strategic-dexterity games.

download

The only negative marks I have are that the game only goes up to five players.  I understand that a contributing fact to this decision is the size of the play area with the location cards, I would have liked to see this reach party game status though as I feel the mechanics work.  I also see it being a bit difficult convincing a gaming group to play this during a normal game night.  Think of how often Rampage hits the table and you will understand what I mean.

Monstrous is a fun game that is just missing a few marks and not enough to make me say don’t get it.  If you are looking to add a fun dexterity game to your collection and you know you will be able to play it then get yourself a copy.  Monstrous was fully funded on Kickstarter in June of 2015.

 

Final Score 7.7/10

Splendor: The Art of Misdirection

By: Timothy Mattes

Splendor is a game for two to four players that has each player attempt to build mines and collect precious stones to please the nobles and be the most prosperous.  For those who have played it this description might come as a surprise because the game is almost completely devoid of theme.  On your turn you may collect gems or purchase a single card by trading in gems or showing that you have them on the cards you have already acquired.  If, during your turn you have completed the sets required for a Noble you may take the one that you have completed.  The first player to fifteen points begins endgame where each player takes one more turn until all players have had the same number of turns.

download

The game is fantastic.  I know you want a game dripping with theme or with a ton of mechanics that make a giant machine whirl across the board like a titan of tyranny but this game is so very good with it’s simplistic nature.  Like Love letter the game takes a simple turn action and makes it a heavy thunderous decision.  If you choose to take one token of three different colors will the card you want still be available when your turn comes around again?  Will the gems you need be available next turn if you hate draft a card from the player that has had a commanding lead the entire game?  Every choice you make is heavy and could make or break your game and strategy.  Yes the theme is nonexistent, and the game might get stale after the fourth or fifth play through in one evening, but that is four to five times that you got to make heavy decisions and hose your neighbors unintentionally.  In all honesty the most criminal thing about this game is the size of the box.  Everything you need to play can fit into a box one eighth the size of the box it comes in.  And that is the only issue I can find with the game.  The rules are simple to read and understand, the game is fun and dynamic.  The play styles and choices are varied enough through each play that the game never gets stale.

Asmodee also launched their Asmoplay organized play kits which provide a sheet of nobles to change the game up slightly as well as replacement gems that actually look like the gems they represent, and a playmat that is one of the coolest playmats I have seen for a tabletop game.  It provides all of the instruction you need to set up for 2, 3, or 4 players.  It also provides a way for stores to get fans of this type of game together to play and begin friendships that could go beyond splendor.  I love these types of programs.

1426603305635_89432235

All in All splendor is absolutely worth your money.  If you don’t already have it I strongly recommend adding it to your collection.  I also recommend looking into the 3d printed boxes on Etsy to store your copy in and make it easily portable.

Final score 9.2/10

Oni or, You Spin Me Right Round

By: Timothy Mattes

 

Oni the game of messing with nobles during the fall festival in Japan is played over four rounds each round you are given a goal card that represents who you need to attack. You start with four cards, Attack, Peek, Reveal, and Swap.  During a round everybody chooses a card to play and reveals them simultaneously.  In turn order beginning with the starting player the cards are resolved.  After all cards are resolved you check the board to see if any nobles were attacked. If they were the round ends everyone reveals the goal cards and points are awarded based on who had which noble.  If no nobles were attacked the cards in the center rotate and play continues.

Oni is one of those card games where the rules and the board layout either intrigue people or intimidate them.  Thankfully our group is the former because the game was quite fun.  Combining elements from Coup, Resistance, and Three card Monty; Oni takes you on a journey of deduction, bluffing, and Opportunism.  Most of our games were three players but the game goes up to six players and really shines with more players.  The rounds last longer the moves are more epic and the plays that present themselves are so much crunchier than in the three player games we played.  That being said the three and four player games are quite fun and provide a nice quick filler in between bigger games.  The moment that truly made this game shine for me was when I played the swap card after seeing the card I needed to attack and moving a completely different card in the hopes that a player would then swap the card I need for the one I moved. Sound confusing? It was but it worked flawlessly and made me so happy.

Overall Oni is a very smart social deduction game that doesn’t require the players to close their eyes or even lie. The game is a solid filler that infects you in a way similar to love letter; you play it and acknowledge that it was fun and move on, then a little while later you realize that you really really want to play it again.  I love games like this, they are like the earworms of tabletop.  The fact that this is an import and translated fairly well is a solid plus. The style of play that it offers and the replay ability makes each game a completely different experience.  I strongly recommend changing out the nobles in play after each game if you choose to play this more than once in a night.  It will add confusion and confusion is fun.

Final thoughts, I do not know what the going price is for a copy of Oni but I do feel that it is a game worth checking the kickstarter when it launches in the next few weeks and I strongly recommend picking a copy up if you like social deduction games like the Resistance.

Final Score: 8.7/10

Mall Madness or, How I Met Your Mother

enhanced-buzz-27819-1357941099-12

 

By Timothy Mattes

Growing up in the Nineties and early Oughts the mall was a mainstay of urban decay for me.  I witnessed the rise and fall of Music stores, I played on an arcade machine during the final hours of the arcade era, I have eaten at pizza places that no longer exist but the smells and allure still remain.  There is something about the rush of commerce and the close knit network of stores to spend your paycheck at that continue to draw us.  Whether it’s the delicious smell of the Cinabon or the new assless chaps at Spencers or that shirt from that band that you liked before they were cool at Hot Topic.  The Mall was a massive part of my life growing up.  Nowadays the mall is streamlined like everything else in our lives.  The mad rush to get what you need and get out has drastically changed what used to be an all-day event.

Thankfully Parker Brothers created a game in the late eighties that captures the joy of wasting a couple of hours in a Mall.  The mad rush of catching a flash sale, the door buster deals to be had, the pizza!  All of it is in this game.  The only unrealistic part of Mall Madness, the only stretch is that you have hundreds of dollars to blow and every time you go to the ATM you can just magically pull more.  This game held up in shocking form from what I remember playing as a kid.   Whether you are a group of adults or if kids are in the mix this is one of those games that everyone can play and do their own thing and the winner is always a surprise.   Although there is a luck factor to the game strategy helps out a lot if you are behind the eight ball.  All said and done Mall Madness is a game that can be played by anyone at any time and has now become a love-letter to a forgotten era of commerce.   Show your kids what a Saturday night used to be with a game of Mall Madness followed immediately by Party Mania.

 

Final Score: 8.7/10

I don’t Honestly See myself playing this regularly but I will definitely try to trick people into playing it with me.

And with that this has been a review from your humble moderator.