Tuesday 31 January 2023

Dragon Age: Absolution (Season 1)

Thieves versus slavers.

Taking place after the Herald of Andraste shut that demon hole in the sky a highly skilled party is put together for a heist of a powerful artifact from the Tevinter Imperium. The six episodes of season one are very well animated with plenty of fight scenes and creatures fans of the games will recognize along with a decent story which handles all the main characters well.

I don't recall ever being able to ignore gravity in the games as well as the main character in this series though but its definitely nice to see the more grounded fights of everyone else. While this will obviously be better received by those who played the Dragon Age games (particularly Dragon Age: Inquisition) it's a decent watch. Recommended!

Sunday 29 January 2023

A Quiet Place I and II

The biggest danger is stupid kids.

Hostile alien beasts have crash landed on Earth and despite being blind are really sturdy and fast to the point that they've become the apex predator on this planet. These films follow a small family of survivors (starring John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) and how they get by in a world where silence is golden, and the answer is - really easily, because they are smart and resilient. Unfortunately their kids do not share those same traits.

As you might expect these are quiet movies that make use of sign language (expect to read sub titles) and the monsters are actually nicely done and don't hide in the dark distance all the time. Interestingly, while there is certainly a lot of killing most of it happens off screen so there's not too much gore here - but plenty of things to still make the viewer squeamish. Worth watching both - recommended!

Thursday 26 January 2023

Warhammer 40K: Darktide

Purge the heretics!

This horde shooter is very much in the same vein as the less futuristic Vermintide and Left 4 Dead with scores of Nurgle worshipers and their special units to dispatch (like one that pounces and then you need help from some one else to get up and another that you need to quietly avoid) while doing random tasks like bringing fuel cans power cells to designated spots, scanning for demon residue (shouldn't that just be everywhere) or hacking with very faulty equipment.  

The major difference with this one is almost 50% of your opponents now come with guns, and those really do hurt! Either you'll need to out snipe them as a veteran, block the damage as a mighty ogryn, cleverly draw them close (or just charge like a maniac) as a zealot, or pop their heads with your mind powers as a psyker - at the risk of popping your own head too - void powers are fun that way. Those are the current four classes available and you do missions in squads of four.

The most annoying parts though are the market, which sells you a random assortment of weapons every hour just to make sure the odds of you finding the one you want are low - and this is worsened by the ridiculous login time which Archer rightly quipped "takes three business days to get in". It's fun enough when you can get to play though its a bit repetitive, a bit grindy and a bit thin on content (though more is said to be on the way). Make sure to have a book or blog site open to read while waiting to actually get into the game.

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Willow (Season 1)

The power to control the universe is in which finger?

Years after the movie of the same name takes place, a great evil once again stirs and now it is up to the children of the movie heroes, their friends, some acquaintances and the titular Nelwyn sorcerer Willow (Warwick Davis) to face it (with a strong dash of "rescue mission" for Season 1).

This fantasy series is very odd. Yes it feels like it has diversity for diversity's sake just like Witcher: Blood Origin but it also has present day slang, out of place music tracks, odd cuts in the cinematography, an unexpected amount of denim, and twirling... way too much twirling. That said it is also quite funny and entertaining.

As long as you aren't expecting a grand fantasy tale that takes itself seriously and are more in the mood for some cosplayers doing a D&D quest then, you might actually enjoy this. We'll definitely look out for season two if it goes ahead.

Monday 23 January 2023

"Solved" Board Games

Tips to increase your odds of winning.

Much like that Sky Force Reloaded tip previously, I thought I'd put some quick ones for games I'm familiar with. Obviously some spoilers and some obvious ones below!

All D&D Adventure systems games: always open tiles if you can

Castle Panic with Engines of War / Wizards Tower: Use the catapult and the magic spells

Crokinole: try flick froma 90 degree angle above for a straight shot

Cthulhu Death May Die: rush the objectives when you can

Dark Souls Card Game: 2 battles, campfire, boss 1, campfire, then try for boss 2

Five Minute Dungeon: play with max players to avoid getting "stuck"

Forbidden Sky: only put wiring once you have all the conduits ready

The Grizzled: first hand is most important while everyone has abilities, go big

Horrified: save villagers when you can as the reward cards are very strong

Last Bastion: fight from corners, switch the flag

Legends of Andor: spy glass the fog and focus on the mission

Legends of Andor 2: use the boat a lot, it saves moves if everyone is on it

Maximum Apocalypse: try end on tiles with numbers on the edges of a 2D6 spectrum

The Night Cage: try not to open tiles that are in line with allies

Operation Flashpoint: Fire Rescue - save people closest to the exits, make use of fire truck

Paleo: seek out scenario cards, they usually have painting pieces

Police Precinct: focus on murder investigation

Robinson Crusoe: avoid rolling dice

Shadowrift: if going for walls, go all in and never pollute your deck with anything other than might or heroism. Otherwise you are going for rifts (even if you declare going for "both", you really mean rifts in this case) which everyone should prep for.

Shadows over Camelot: collect lots of cards first and do grail quest together

The Witching Hour Mod: one player (usually dwarf) ignore your quests and farm requirements for allies

Xenoshyft: don't waste money on cheap units and keep strong guys at both sides of line

Zombicide (all variants): keep track of remaining figures, you don't want to open a big area and have things get lots of extra moves

Sunday 22 January 2023

Warrior Nun and Witcher: Blood Origin

Girl power fantasy!

Warrior Nun

This two season show follows a girl (Alba Baptista) resurrected by a holy plot device who is then pressured to become the titular Warrior Nun to use her blessed powers and lead an order of murderous nuns into battle against the forces of hell.

While there are some nice and gory fight scenes the story and a noticeable amount of the acting is quite shaky, with multiple occurrences of forgetting simple logic and plot holes galore. As long as you set your bar low and expect the protagonist to be almost useless most of the time you might yet enjoy it.

Witcher: Blood Origin

"Diversity!" is the first word that comes to mind when trying to explain this four episode show that prequels the Witcher which explains the world before the conjunction.  

That magical world which only contained elves of all kinds (like, American Elves, Asian Elves, European Elves, Black Elves, Elves of various disabilities etc) and exactly one dwarf was not so magical. These elves are industrious city builders and field toilers that enjoyed political manipulation and warring among each other. No tree hugging Scoia'tael here!

It falls upon a small group of protagonists to try stop an evil empire (who have a severe soldier shortage) and their plans to leverage magical obelisks that can open gateways to other worlds. Props to them for acknowledging their short content to fit everything into four episodes and while it is a bit wierd and possibly lore breaking, its an OK ride with some nice singing. I always give extra points for music. :P

By no means does that make this mandatory viewing though, not even for Witcher fans.

Thursday 19 January 2023

Sky Force Reloaded

 Expect to die a lot again!

This vertically scrolling (bullet hell in later levels) shooter tasks players with earning medals by doing various things during missions: rescuing everyone, not taking damage, killing a % of enemy etc. Earning enough medals unlocks harder modes of the same mission and unlocks later levels too which might require you to have earned x number of medals.

While it's addictive, the upgrades to your craft which become mandatory for some of those medals, quickly becomes a grind and an incentive to use the cash shop. Since I've played this on an ipad where pressing your finger moves your plane around, there is a nice feature included that helps with reaction time: lift your finger and everything goes into slow mo. Sure you can't move, but it gives you precious time to think of where the next opening would be.

In contrast to Rogue Legacy this game lets you keep all the currency you earned, and even better - often offers to double it on a failed run! This alone makes it a million times better than that Rogue Legacy garbage. Unfortunately the levels get repetitive here too so that decreases its longevity somewhat.

Wednesday 18 January 2023

Ecosystem (Card Game)

In this little card drafting game up to 6 players are trying to create the best ecosystem they can by playing a 5x4 grid of 20 cards. Each type of card unique points based on what they are or are not next to which sounds messy at first, but its actually super simple to tally up at the end. Best of all (for me) that while it is competitive, there are no direct attacks against other players.

There is a simple elegance in how it is played - everyone gets 10 cards, picks one to play, then passes their entire hand clockwise and so on. After all 10 are done, everyone gets another 10 cards to do the same again, except the cards are now passed counter clock wise. As a result this goes rather quickly and is fast to setup and take down.  Recommended!

Tuesday 17 January 2023

Rogue Legacy

Expect to die a lot!

In this side scrolling, platforming action game you play as an adventurer (and subsequent heirs) who delves into a horrible castle to try rid it of the evil dwelling within. Getting killed still gives you the collected gold for you to build up a castle of your own, right next door that can improve your heirs by giving them better stuff from the get go etc.

I do like that each heir is their own person, complete with their own class, strengths and clever pitfalls like can't see in color, or everything is dark, or everything being inverted.

Alas the part I hate most is that to go back into the evil castle costs you most of your unspent gold. That just seems like an unnecessary kick in the teeth to extend the grind, given that the castle upgrades later on do get quite pricey and often you will come back with not enough gold to do anything but lose most of it to re-enter the combat zone again.  

That singular bad and honestly cruel design decision is enough for me to say stay away from this game even if you like roguelikes.

Monday 16 January 2023

Squid Game: Let the Games Begin (Board Game)

It's a money grab.

Based on the popular Netflix show with the same title, this Squid Game board game has up to six players leading a team of competitors through the six games on the show, usually using a small hand of cards that are reused in most of the games - as is a timer that ticks down and usually kills all remaining people once it hits 00:00.

In Red Light, Green Light you want to get as many people to the safe zone quickly but those that move fast have a bigger chance of getting killed by the doll. Dalgona is all about pushing your luck in drawing cards to push your team along but get a "crack" and its over for one contestant.

Tug of War lets you play cards per contestant you have in that match, whichever side has the highest total wins - eliminating the other team entirely. Marbles becomes a duel of guessing or agility where you have to toss something closer to the target on the table, Glass Bridge is another guessing game where you might want to go slower to let others take the risks (but that time keeps ticking down), and finally Squid game itself is a form of rock paper scissors with a few more rules.

OK components but ultimately each and every game here is really shallow with almost no thinking involved. I think what's happened here is that almost everything is luck based with very little in ways to compensate - and if everything is just luck then ultimately there is very little player agency. Unlike the show, we didn't like this game. Not recommended.

Sunday 15 January 2023

Prey (2022 movie) and Alice in Borderland (2 Seasons)

Killing for sport.


Naru (Amber Midthunder) wants to prove to her tribe that she can be a huntress but is constantly overshadowed by her skilled brother. When a Predator on safari arrives from space, the hunters quickly become the hunted. While it is a simple story it is very well done and comes with decent action sequences to boot. Recommended!

Alice in Borderland

A strange event sends people into an alternate version of Tokyo where they must participate in cruel and deadly games to survive while collecting a deck of playing cards. This is a really odd two season show, but it is also really good with multiple excellent characters, great music, and good sets and cinematography. It also has loads of death and gore so be warned! If you are ok with that (or liked Squid Game) then this is definitely one you should watch.

Thursday 12 January 2023

Paradigm and Just Die Already

Games that try to be funny.


In this old school point and click adventure you play as the titular Paradigm, a pretty chill and happy mutant person who also has a decent sense of humor. The voice acting and jokes are surprisingly good here, and while most of the puzzles are straight forward expect to get stuck in a few places (or I'm just terrible at these games). I just wish he could run. Anyway, decent one to check out if you are feeling in the mood for this type of thing.

Just Die Already

Clearly created by people who hate their parents and/or grandparents, this open world sandbox has you play as a geriatric who must escape from their nursing home and "live" (get points) by doing ridiculous things in the super dangerous world outside.

To "help" with the fun, the controls are intentionally bad and you will most likely maim yourself before even making it out of your room. Not to worry though, respawns are endless but other than to feel a game that seems to drip with hatred for the elderly - what's the point? Not recommended.

Wednesday 11 January 2023

Wingspan: Oceania + Fan Coop

In its original form, Wingspan is a 1-5 player competitive engine building game. As we aren't a competitive gaming group, we straight away got this highly rated fan made cooperative version and the Oceania expansion that it recommends which adds a new resource and lots of new birds.

The idea is that each player is building their own bird sanctuary and in the cooperative version must accomplish a number of objectives to win - such as filling their sanctuary, gaining a set number of points, or having birds in a particular order (wingspan size for example). While there are lots of pieces and it looks incredibly complicated at the start, turns are really simple. There are four rounds to the game and you basically do the same process.

You all have a set number of cubes and you use one per turn to signify what action on your board you take - and there are only four: get new bird cards, hatch eggs which are used more and more as your sanctuary fills up, gain food to pay for new birds, and add a new bird. Apart from that last action you can add up to five bird cards which might also have special actions - and they ALL fire the next time you pick their row to activate (hence, engine building).

It's a very pleasant game with nice art and can also easily eat four hours or more away without anyone noticing so expect a long game if you put this on the table.

Tuesday 10 January 2023

Warframe: Gyre and Volt

A pair of electrical themed frames that are on the opposite ends of the spectrum!


This warframe is one you'll get late in the game as it is only available through Zariman bounties. The Gyre is a clockwork dancer who uses her gears to make lots of sparks and passively gains 10% crit chance per electricity stack on her target! To aid with this she has an ability to increase her criticals even more while recharging energy, create a swirl of electricity around her and has a choice of two electrified balls she can toss that explode with more electricity!

Despite being a light show and a crit monster I found Gyre to be somewhat flimsy. It's hard work to zap people and avoid damage due to the short ranges of her abilities (*maybe not so bad if you build for max range), especially since those balls aren't the best projectiles around. If you want a lightning based frame, the one below is a much better choice.


Either selected as a starter frame or researched from at the Dojo, the Volt is basically the Flash complete with lightning powers. He can electrocute a small number of foes with his first ability or a huge number of foes with his last, run and melee super fast (and get his allies to do so as well, though he can't run as fast as Gauss), and create an electrical shield that blocks enemy fire but greatly improves allied fire that passes through it. This is Juris' favorite frame and one of the best in the game as his abilities synergize very well.

The speed is awesome in most missions as it can also speed up escort targets and the shield is great in defense and against bosses - Eidolons in particular as the shield also improves Operator based weaponry! Highly recommended.

Monday 9 January 2023


In this cooperative 1-6 player deck building game, you are tasked with defending a town from a variety of invading monsters. You can win in one of two ways: constructing 8 walls or closing a number of the titular Shadowrifts from which the enemies spawn from (you need to close the same number as players) BEFORE the town is overrun with corpses.

Yes, every time a towns person dies the card is replaced by a corpse card and if on any turn the active townies are all corpses (or a mix of corpses and bad dudes) you instantly lose. On the flip side, you (as players) can't actually die as you can hold an infinite amount of wound cards from battle - though that eventually does mess up your active hand too.

Nice art and cool ideas in this game, but there's not a lot of deck building required if you are going for the wall win strategy as you are already optimized for that from the start. So far we've played five of the six enemy factions and the strategy has worked for us against four of them (that fifth one was just focused on breaking walls and stealing money lol). Interesting game, but not as fighty as you might like and a bit heavy on setup time. DL also has a review!

Sunday 8 January 2023


When Zeus and the other gods turn their back on humans, it is up to the player to fight against a few raiders and then storm Mount Olympus to steal the power of the gods! With a thematic art style this action side scroller is quite fun and doesn't over stay its welcome. I managed to finish it while doing my usual Warframe grinds and testing out Warhammer 40K: Darktide.

My only negative is that fighting (which happens a lot) is a bit odd. I usually ended up using either a ranged weapon or the wonderful assassin daggers that multiply damage if you can hit the back of an opponent. Since you normally can walk through each other, this makes it really easy to get those backstabs in. It's a very neat little game - recommended!

Saturday 7 January 2023

Maximum Apocalypse

Don't settle for a regular apocalypse!

This 1-6 player cooperative card game has players moving about the tile constructed map to complete objectives through 10 scenarios where you'll be facing zombies, mutants, robots and aliens - afterwards just whack them all together and see how you go! :P

I'm going to start with negatives: the box packing is lousy. As soon as I opened it I looked got a bunch of resealable sandwich bags for each card set and tossed out the box insert. Even with this system setting up an packing away takes a reasonable amount of time. That said, once it's all setup turns go very smoothly.

Each character has their own deck and you start with four cards open. Usually you also start with a monster (they just follow you around until you kill them). Then on your turn:

1) roll the 2D6 monster dice and if any tile shows that number put a monster token there
2) open a card from your deck
3) do four actions which are either moving or using cards
4) take damage from any monster in front of you
5) increase your hunger d6 die, and get hunger damage if its already at 6

Then its the next players turn. I quite like that each character also has their own role too: the tanky fireman, tinkery engineer, DPS gunslinger, murderous doctor, jack of all trades veteran and far-seeing scout are unique and useful in the right situations.

Very enjoyable game, and I'm eager to test the mixed opponent decks next time I pull it out. I have to say the mid-game convoy mission vs robots is easily the hardest though, so just look out for that!

Friday 6 January 2023

Mole Rats in Space and Dog Man - Attack of the Fleas

Games for kids!

Mole Rats in Space

Made by the creator of Pandemic, this 2-4 player cooperative game has players control the titular Mole Rats in Space whose plastic figures come with functional basket backpacks that can carry the items on the board. The goal is to get all of them and have everyone make it to the escape pod while avoiding the inexplicable snake infestation. It's snakes (and ladders) in space!

You each start with a medkit that lets you survive one snake bite. Get a second bite (or fall down a chute into space) and its game over for everyone! It's also game over if a snake gets to the escape pod, because they are super crafty.

The movement cards are key, everyone starts with one face up and these determine how many mole rats move how many spaces, then which snakes how many spaces. Left or right is the only choice. If whatever move lands on a ladder it gets closer to the escape pod. If it lands on a chute it goes down to wherever the chute leads. You will ideally be moving snakes into the chutes that toss them out into space. After completing your card, discard it and draw another then its the next players turn.

Fun but suffers a little with replayability since the setup is always the same.

Dog Man - Attack of the Fleas

In this 2-6 cooperative game each player plays as a character from Dog Man and must work together to get items and stop the robot dinosaur (Fleas is an acronym) before it gets to its destination. Oh and then everyone has to get back to the Dog Man's base in 3 moves to party.

No character is better than the other at anything (though some start in better spots) and moves are done just by flicking a spinner then hoping you land on useful items. You spin to move the dino as well before the turn passes to the next person. It's silly and fun but I don't think you'd play this more than a few times.

Thursday 5 January 2023

Pandemic: State of Emergency and In the Lab

Jim let us try out these expansions for Pandemic that he's had for awhile and they both can change the base game just enough to make it feel different again.

State of Emergency

While this adds a Super bug (purple cubes) challenge and lock down tokens where you can pay a card to quarantine a city (up to 4, or 6 is someone is using the Colonel role) which prevents disease cubes spawning on it twice, the "bigger" change is when you use the Hinterlands challenge that adds two mini boards next to the world map which depict the animals in those regions also spreading the disease.

You can normally only move to them through one of the five cities they are attached to meaning they're hard to get to, but once there you can trade any card of that color with another player in the same Hinterland region (as opposed to exactly the same city). On the negative side, should a Hinterland outbreak - all the connected cities get hit as well and vice versa.

In the Lab

This one also adds a new board, the Lab, where someone must spend turns sequencing the cure for each virus. On the flip side, instead of one person needing 5 of the same colored cards to make a cure those can now come from numerous players. It's a nice mini-game but someone will probably be locked in there the whole game so that's a bit hit or miss.

Are either compelling enough for me to purchase for myself? No, I think I've burned out on old Pandemic. Happy to play Pandemic: Fall of Rome though, where the "virus" is people!

Wednesday 4 January 2023

Monopoly Deal Card Game and Secret Code

Kids games that I'm terrible at! :P

Secret Code

Basically a rebranded "Mastermind", this two player game has one player set 4 (or 5) colored pins behind a shield and it is the other player's job to match the colors (8 choices) in the correct sequence. The Code setter then verifies how many are correct colors in wrong spots and how many are just correct but not necessarily which ones are correct. I rate it a "meh".

Monopoly Deal

This competitive 2-5 player card game goes much faster than the original Monopoly. On a players turn, every one draws a random "money" card (which could also be an action card like: steal someone's property or block a steal), play an action card if you want to, then open a property card to bid on. Whoever bids highest wins the property, then its the next person's turn.

The objective is to collect 3 "sets" of property, easily distinguished by colors to win. It's worth mentioning once a "set" is completed it can no longer be targeted by steals and such. The result is a blitz-speed game with some light strategy and some heavy luck in the money draws. Quite fun!

Tuesday 3 January 2023

Avatar: The Way of Water and the 100 (TV Series)

Featuring humans from space!

Avatar: The Way of Water

After betraying the greedy humans in the first movie to become a big blue cat person, Jake (Sam Worthington) has had a number of years of peace on Pandora - time enough to raise a litter of blue cat people - when the Sky People (humans) suddenly return. Having (stupid) kids has made Jake a coward, so he eventually takes his brood far away to try hide but since this is an action movie that doesn't work for long.

Like the previous flick the graphics here are gorgeous, and while there is almost too much time spent on the silly kids and the plot is just ok, there is more than enough violence to keep me happy here and to look forward to the next movie. Recommended!

The 100

After almost a hundred years of living on a space station, 100 juvenile delinquents are sent back to Earth to see if the nuclear radiation has dissipated enough to make it is survivable. Why delinquents? Because adults found guilty of crimes are quickly executed. Also that space station is quickly running out of air.

What I thought would be a silly, teenage drama with a light survival story is actually the opposite. It's all about survival and what the characters are willing to do for it. Good acting, good script (though it is really flaky with magic medicine and gets more and more far out there as the seasons go along) and an incredibly high death count which regularly includes main characters. Highly recommended!

Monday 2 January 2023

Slumberland and Everything Everywhere All at Once

One movie took us to the other...


To deal with grief, a young girl (played by Marlow Barkle), takes refuge in the world of dreams to not deal with real life and is rewarded for her narcolepsy! Ok, that aspect of it aside this is a really neat little film that has fantastic CGI and very cool concepts of what the dreaming world would be like.

If anything I would have liked to see more of it, the story is pretty good and there are a good number of laughs to be had especially with Jason Momoa's ridiculous character who dwells in Slumberland. We enjoyed it - recommended!

Everything Everywhere All at Once

An unhappy woman (played by Michelle Yeoh) gains the additional burden of saving the multiverse from an evil clown. Luckily she gains the ability to siphon skills from the other versions of herself, usually by doing something gross, which results in some hilarious situations and a number of good action sequences. Alas the plot was the undoing here as it goes too long for something that boiled down is pretty simple and while intentional, the quick cutting across universes and the over the top antagonist also detracts from the story. Not recommended as some long talking scenes took my wife to Slumberland. :P