D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 13 Recap

After capturing renegade wizard Glasstaff from a Hobgoblin camp, the party infiltrates the goblin tribe hideout at Cragmaw Castle.

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Damn that Sleep spell!

For the 2nd week in a row a single spell renders a combat encounter completely moot. The fact that my poor NPCs get no Saving Throw is very irksome. Especially since the wizard can scale up its power by expending a higher spell slot. Sleeping a group of foes has become my players’ de facto strategy, and it’s annoyingly effective.

Anyway, this week the party finally traveled to Cragmaw Castle. First, however, I wanted to insert a dangling thread from earlier in the adventure. The Redbrand leader, Glasstaff, AKA Iarno Albrek, had escaped their clutches, and had been on the run ever since.

The published adventure “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” doesn’t explain what happens if Glasstaff escapes the Redbrand Hideout, so I came up with a fun scenario. He found himself in the clutches of Targor Bloodsword, Hobgoblin war band leader, and was trying to seek an audience with King Grol of the Cragmaws. The PCs saw the camp outside of Cragmaw Castle, and formulated a plan of attack. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 13 Recap”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #9

The final installment in the Starcraft II trilogy comes in at #9 on my Game of the Year list.

My Top Ten Games of 2015

 

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

SC2 Legacy of the Void

There’s a poem titled “Ode to the RTS” rattling around in my brain somewhere. If you grew up playing PC games in the 90s it was pretty tough not to become a fan of the real time strategy genre. Blizzard and Westwood competed for our love with their growing mega-franchises, while numerous knock-offs flooded the market. It was a magical time.

These days you have Starcraft II, and that’s about damn it. When Blizzard announced the sequel I was ecstatic; Starcraft was (and still is I guess) one of my all time favorite games.

Then they announced that SC2 would be split up between three games, with the three races’ campaigns as their own standalone games. Because it’s Blizzard, these games took years to come out. Five years after Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, we finally get the third and final Starcraft II experience in Legacy of the Void.

That’s a lot of exposition to explain what is very nearly a Lifetime Achievement award that I’m bestowing on Starcraft II by including it on my Game of the Year list. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #9”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Factor (2005), Vol. 8-9

X-Factor’s major time-traveling tale comes to a satisfying conclusion in Vol 8, while 9 brings in a fun new artist and direction.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

X-Factor Vol 8Writer: Peter David

Artists: Valentine De Landro (Vo. 8), Bing Cansino (Vol. 9)

Issues: X-Factor (2005) #46-50, 200-203

 

I really wish I had read Volume 8 when I last read X-Factor, as it’s the climax and finale to a very long story arc. It involves time travel and had everyone in specific situations that made it a tricky point to jump back into.

Still, this is one of my favorite comics we’re talking about, and it didn’t take long to get re-acclimated to my favorite super-powered team.

Volume 8 leads to a satisfying conclusion with a fun villain reveal and even more drama for our time-displaced lovers Jamie and Layla, while Volume 9 kicks off a new art style and story direction for X-Factor that breathes in some refreshing changes while thankfully keeping the same great writer and themes. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – X-Factor (2005), Vol. 8-9”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #10

My tenth favorite game of the year is Double Fine’s generationl-spanning tactical-strategy game MASSIVE CHALICE.

My Top Ten Games of 2015

I’m doing my annual Game of the Year list a bit differently this year. For starters I’m posting it a few weeks earlier than usual. In years past I rely on a small influx from the Holidays to help round out the list, but it delays my ranking until about mid-January. While I may be missing a few key games, I’d barely be able to play them enough to give a measured opinion.

Secondly, I’m breaking up my Top Ten list. To create a fun bit of excitement I’ll be posting the next entry on my Top Ten Games of the Year each day, starting today. My full Top Ten list and category awards will then be posted on Christmas Eve. Like all my lists, I’ll be starting with #10!

 

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

massive chalice wallpaper

Despite some controversy that surrounded the campaign of Double Fine’s first Kickstarter project, I was proud to be a backer. I loved the documentary that 2PP produced, and Broken Age was a fun throwback adventure game. Thus when Double Fine announced a second Kickstarter project for a genre that was even more in my wheelhouse (tactical-strategy) I was all over it.

I’m pleased to report that I made another great decision. MASSIVE CHALICE (which must always be capitalized) is an interesting combination of XCOM‘s tactical combat with a trait-breeding generational meta game. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #10”

One Year with Marvel Unlimited: My Top Ten Comics (2004-2009)

After my first year with Marvel Unlimited, I list my top ten favorite comics between 2004-09.

marvelunlimited

In December of 2014 I tried out a month-long trial version of digital comic subscription service Marvel Unlimited. I immediately fell in love with the speed and voracity with which I could devour decade-old comics at a fraction of the price. I quickly signed up for the full year-long subscription.

For my birthday in July I received an iPad, which further solidified my love of the digital format. I still prefer physical media for just about everything else (and have since still purchased many collected volumes and trade paperbacks), but comics work beautifully on a tablet.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I read quite a bit of comics and write my thoughts about them here. I started at the beginning of the modern age of Marvel, defined by the era of major events beginning with “Avengers Disassembled” in 2004. In the last year I’ve made it through approximately four years of comics, through the Dark Reign period of 2009 – though I’ve clearly had to pick and choose which series and characters to cover.

For a full list of all the comics I’ve written about, see the Comics section at the top of the page. As a fun anniversary post I listed my favorite comics I’ve read in the last year below, covering that 2004-09 era. Continue reading “One Year with Marvel Unlimited: My Top Ten Comics (2004-2009)”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Captain America: Reborn

Steve Roger returns after some confusing but fun time-travel through his storied past, while our supporting cast battles Red Skull’s ultimate plan.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Captain America RebornWriter: Ed Brubaker

Artists: Bryan Hitch, Butch Guice

Issues: Captain America: Reborn #1-6

 

You just can’t keep a good superhero down. Other than Jean Grey pretty much every notable hero that has died returns in some fashion (and even Jean sort of returned with Brian Michael Bendis’ First Class time-forwarding run on All-New X-Men). Sometimes it’s embarrassingly bad, like when Magneto waltzes up to Charles Xavier in the ruins of Genosha a mere month or two after they buried him following an epic confrontation.

Captain America: Reborn is an exercise in how to do the hero resurrection story right. That’s not to say that Steve Rogers’ return isn’t fraught with dumb pseudo-science and nonsense hand-waving. You know when Mr. Fantastic and Hank Pym are involved, the plot is about to derail into Super Dumb Comic territory (no, I don’t like the Fantastic Four).

And yet by focusing on the excellent drama he’s been unfolding for years, Ed Brubaker crafts a worthy tale that explores Captain America’s storied history. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Captain America: Reborn”

Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Hand of Fate

Despite some frustrations, Hand of Fate successfully layers in 3rd person combat into a highly randomized card-based tabletop adventure.

I have finished another backlogged game via Rogue’s Adventures. You can read my latest Final Thoughts below and also on my gaming blog on Game Informer.

Developer: Defiant Development

Publisher: Defiant Development

Release Date: February 17, 2015

Rogues Adventure

The indie gaming scene is full of brilliant, innovative ideas and genre mashups. Many of them bury a cool concept deep within convoluted gameplay or “retro-homage” graphics. Final execution is just as critical as having a cool idea, and so many games fail – or are quietly forgotten because of it.

Thankfully Hand of Fate is not one of those games. By layering a 3rd person arena-fighting game on top of a card-based tabletop adventure, Hand of Fate creates a truly unique and infinitely replayable experience. Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Hand of Fate”