Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sugar crash

Two weeks!

Pat and I are on Atkins. I've been avoiding sugar for two weeks now. Oh, and also rice, bread, potatoes, and other carbs. But really, I don't miss those starches as much as I miss delicious pastries and fruit shakes.

First, the downsides. It's significantly more expensive. I'm eating more meat, but also more greens, and both are expensive compared to rice. It's also seriously depressing to go cold turkey on sweets, since normally I'm sugared up to the gills.

On the plus side, in those two weeks I've lost ten pounds! Maybe more! Ironically, I've also been getting better nutrients, because of all the fish and greens that I've been having. So hey, things are looking good.

In the long run, I think it's unhealthy to keep a strict ketosis diet, so I'll probably return to a broader diet... but I'll still skip out on white rice, white flour, and white sugar.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Minis roundup #3: Heroscape

Finally, Heroscape.

Heroscape is a game that brings minis into an entirely new dimension... literally. This is a great game, and I'll tell you why. First off, the most striking feature of Heroscape is that instead of a flimsy paper map or homemade cardboard terrain, Heroscape has plastic hex tiles that can stack and interlock to form complete 3D terrain. You can also have walls, rivers, glaciers, trees, roads, bridges, even a castle.

Apart from the scenery, though, is the game any good? Short answer, yes. Heroscape doesn't try for anything too fancy, and scores with its intuitive, straightforward rules that barely need to be taught. Unit stats and abilities are printed on cards. This is so much better than being on the figs (less worry about wear and tear) or in the rulebook (no need to look things up in an expensive, overwhelming codex). Having special cards allows each unit to have unique, explicit special abilities, spicing up the game experience while keeping the core rules simple.

The funny thing about Heroscape is that it's made by Hasbro and is supposed to be a mass market toy, meaning it's found in Toys R' Us, not in Neutral Grounds. Unfortunately, this wasn't really marketed in the Philippines, so most pepople here haven't even heard of it. And since it was released in 2004, this makes it pretty scarce. The Master Set (read: starter) is incredibly good value. The booster packs have roughly the same MSRP cost per fig compared to Clix and Dreamblade, but they're not random. If you just want orcs, go ahead and buy the box with orcs in it.

It's probably a little to early for me to say this for sure -- but I think that Heroscape is the best prepainted minis game around.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Minis roundup #2.5: Warmachine

This one is a little different. I never got any Warmachine figures. Just a rulebook - a thick, hardbound, illustrated, full-color rulebook. It's definitely awesome, but to be honest, it cost more than I had spent on Heroclix.

Warmachine (as far as I can tell), plays great. The gameplay is pretty similar to Mageknight, but with more stats, more abilities, and more variety - Mageknight designed by serious gamers. Oh, there are some issues about how mechs drain resources too much compared to infantry, but that's something that has a lot of countermeasures.

Warmachine looks good too... but is where I have a problem. Warmachine comes from the grand old tradition of unpainted pewter minis. It comes as little metal bits that you have to assemble using glue, tiny drills and pins. Then you paint the little guy by hand -- primers, body and wash. And hey, that sounds like a fun hobby, but I don't think it's for someone who just wants to play a minis game.

The funny thing is, I casually suggested to a couple of Warmachine players that it would be nice if the game went prepainted, and they started ranting at me like I was a goat-horned heretic. I guess from their point of view, playing with pre-painted minis is like playing with a pre-constructed Magic deck - yeah you can do that, but then what's the point?

I printed out some chits to try the game out, and the truth is I really like it. But having to take up painting and modelling as one more hobby on top of gaming is a really big barrier to entry - a line I'm not willing to cross.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Minis roundup #2: Dreamblade

I got into Dreamblade almost a year ago, but I don't think I've ever written about it. Which is a shame, because it's flat out amazing.

Dreamblade is a really really good game. It's a mix of Ameritrash and Euro-style elements... and it works. There's combat with a ton of dice rolls, like a minis game, or Descent. The movement is strategic, somewhat like a light abstract (like checkers or chess). The victory point scoring is straight out of a Eurogame. What's impressive is that it all hangs together -- forming a coherent, fun game with the best of everything. The variety of figures is pretty impressive, even with just the base set, and the four factions differentiate themselves well.

Unfortunately for Dreamblade, it was packaged as a collectible game with a horrible theme (nightmare monsters, wtf). They're well designed, well sculpted, and well painted, but at the end of the day who's going to make an effort to collect an army of two-headed gorillas? It would really have helped if it were packaged as a boardgame with all the bits in one box. Yes, I know I say that about everything but in this case it's exceptionally true. Unappealing figures and a high barrier to entry killed this game.
So how do you get into a dead collectible game? In this case, I got a few starters when they were on sale, shopped for some singles on local forums. Last month I finally finished my goal of getting two of each common and one of each uncommon in the base set. Fortunately, the way the numbers work out it's easy to put together straight up preconstructed faction armies (ie. One of each blue and red common VS two of each green common). Treating it as an out-of-print boardgame instead of a dead CMG makes it much more appealing to play.

Overall, I really like it. I should bring it out whenever there's an opportunity for a two player game.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Minis roundup #1: Heroclix

I still have an unhealthy fixation on plastic manz, so I ended up getting a couple of minis games last month (and also this month). This could be kind of long, so I'll break it down into bite sized parts.

I found some Heroclix: Batman Alpha boosters on sale at Neutral Grounds, just 150php (normally around 450php). It seemed like an ideal way to start a heroclix collection, so I grabbed a booster (or ten). Now, thing about the Batman Alpha set is that it's geared towards starting players. The character selection here is good: It's just a small set, and the characters are all fairly popular. Opening a booster, I do feel fairly happy unless I get mostly duplicates. And hey, it's Batman! Who doesn't like the motherfucking Batman? Admittedly, I wouldn't have done this at full MSRP, but it's fun to open boosters when it's on sale. On the downside, the figs are mostly mediocre - bland sculpts and thick painting. I'm sick of playing on flimsy paper maps. Also, the idea of having clix bases is interesting, but ultimately I think it's better to just have stat cards and statless figures.

As far as the game goes: Heroclix Alpha comes with dumbed down starter rules that are okay, but have a much shallower gameplay. It does offer a more interesting win condition: Kill 5 units, and everyone respawns when killed. Compared to "kill everything", this makes it easier for a player to catch up, and more attractive for multiplayer. The full rules are a mixed bag; the core gameplay is good, but you can see that grime and clutter has been added to it over the years. (this is not really relevant to the material in the Alpha sets, though).

Overall, I'm happy with what I got. Hey it was cheap! I wouldn't really bother to get more though, and I definitely wouldn't even try to get into it competitively. So... is anyone interested in picking up my duplicates?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Castle Builder

We got some more toys and games a couple of weeks ago. I'll skip posting an inventory for now, but let me tell you about the first thing I opened: Dominion.

Dominion counts as a boardgame, but it's really just 500 cards in a nice box. Unlike a CCG, people don't bring their own decks; instead, everyone plays from one common pool of cards. Building your deck *is* the game. The person who can build a deck with the most victory points in it wins, but to do this first you need Gold (for buying things) and various actions (to speed up your deck in various ways).

Dominion is good stuff! The basic rules are easy to learn and the game is easy to play, but there is a great depth of strategy in evaluating cards and choosing what combination to put in your deck. There's a constant impetuous to make you build just a leetle bit better game after game -- the very same thing which kept me interested in CCGs for years (Although without the corresponding need to burn cash).

Dominion tayo!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Toy Soldiers

2009: For the past month, I've been jonesing for a miniature wargame. Minis are relatively expensive, but they count as both a toy and a game, so it's like, double good. For all its flaws, I loved Mageknight, and I wanted to find something that would scratch the same itch.

I was well primed, then, when Mage Knight: Destiny's Soldier caught my eye. I'd passed over it before, due to it getting tepid ratings. To be fair, the biggest complaint seemed to be that the poor tutorial made for a steep learning curve - but I already know how to play. So, I gave it a go.

It's pretty good! The action and fatigue system is relatively unique to Mageknight, and is a good change of pace from the usual j-S-RPG. The old complaints about melee have been heard - apparently MK2.0 introduced a couple of univeral melee abilities that give more balance. Time limits and special scenarios keep the game fast and fresh. On the other hand, the graphics are a little old, and there's no multiplayer. The stylus controls are intuitve, but spottily programmed. My biggest problem though, is that these little plastic men are, in the end, just virtual - it doesn't count as a toy.

It's good nostalgia. I'd put hours and hours into Mageknight... if Tesla didn't keep grabbing the DS to play this: