Goodreads Review – I Shall Wear Midnight

I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld, #38; Tiffany Aching, #4)I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the fourth novel in Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series much more than the previous two. The first one is a classic coming of age adventure, while the second focuses on social drama among tween girls (yeesh) and the third an annoyingly awkward pining romance (double yeesh).

The fourth book, however, stars an older teenage Tiffany, comfortably seated as the witch of her lands. The new villain is yet another malevolent force and too similar to book 2’s hiver. But what made it a wonderful read was the fantastic, complex relationship between Tiffany, Roland (the young prince, now grown up), and Roland’s new fiance Letitia.
Pratchett smartly stays far away from a tiresome teen love triangle, allowing all the characters to breathe, develop, and interact in a much more likable, but still dramatic, way. Plus we’re given a fun side jaunt to Ankh-Morpork, including guest stars from the City Watch series. It also provides a satisfying ending, though there’s one more book to go.

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Crafting Annihilation 01/31

Behind-the-scenes DM-only live stream of building and preparing our ongoing Tomb of Annihilation series.

Streamed live every Thursday.

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My Top Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2019

Every year is a great year for video games but as of January 2019 I admit I’m a bit underwhelmed compared to previous years. Most of the big sequels due out this year (that have been announced) aren’t for series I care much about, like Mortal Kombat 11, Devil May Cry 5, and Gears 5.

Thankfully there are tons of exciting indie games that I’m very much interested in, and it’s my first full year with a Nintendo Switch – gimme that new Pokémon game!

Here are my top ten most anticipated games for 2019.

10) Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

Who would’ve thought we’d be getting a new Marvel Ultimate Alliance game in 2019? And it’s a Switch exclusive? I’m very excited to return to one of my favorite console action-RPG brawlers, even though it’ll most likely feature only MCU heroes and villains.

9) Kingdom Hearts III

I may be in the minority in that I’m not a big Kingdom Hearts fan, but still look forward to trying the very, very long-awaited Kingdom Hearts 3. I enjoyed the first one (17 freaking years ago, holy crap), but never actually finished the second, when the series really started getting up its own ass.

8) Wargroove

Everyone knows Advance Wars was a great series and it should be a crime that we haven’t had a proper sequel in over a decade. Beloved indie developers and publishers Chucklefish are answering the call with Wargroove, which looks like the spiritual successor we’ve been waiting for.

7) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

The Igarashi-led Castlevania successor appeared on my Most Anticipated list last year only to be delayed into 2019. With countless indie games aping the metroidvania style, it’ll be interesting to see if Bloodstained can stand out. I’m betting it will and more.

6) Anthem

BioWare does Destiny? I’m not a big fan of Destiny (though I’m actually giving Destiny 2 a shot right now) but something about the mech suits, third-person action, and exotic alien world is making me take notice. Maybe this could be my Monster Hunter: World of 2019?

5) Warcraft III: Reforged

I very much enjoyed the nostalgic trip from StarCraft Remastered two years ago. StarCraft was my high school years; Warcraft 3 was college. Blizzard is the closest thing I have to a fanboy company, and I’m looking forward to revisiting WarCraft 3.

4) The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds was recently announced during The Game Awards just a few months ago. It’s a first-person RPG by Obsidian that looks like a fun combination of Fallout and Borderlands, and I’m definitely here for it.

3) Desperados III

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun was one of my favorite games of 2016. Mimimi Productions is trading in katanas for revolvers. I have zero knowledge or nostalgia for the Desperados series, but I’ve grown to love the tactical stealth genre and can’t wait to see how they handle a Western.

2) Age of Wonders: Planetfall

I’ll always carry a torch for Age of Wonders III; no game has before or since captured the satisfying tactical combat, resource management, and exploration from Heroes of Might and Magic III. Triumph Studios has been working on a neat-looking sci-fi sequel, and now their resources include the backing of one of the biggest strategy game companies around, Paradox Interactive.

1) Untitled Pokémon Game for Switch 

most anticipated games

I’m a big Pokémon fan and nearly every year a Pokémon game finds its way onto my Top Ten list. We don’t know squat about the highly teased Pokémon game coming to Switch but given the last few releases I’m expecting good things.

My PAX South 2019 Experience

My PAX South 2018 Experience
My PAX South 2017 Experience
My PAX South 2016 Experience

January has become the single biggest month of the year for me: not only do we host a big New Year’s party for our friends, but we then all travel to San Antonio for PAX South.

It’s an interesting mix of business and pleasure as I go with a media pass to interview devs, network with folks, and play games, while hanging out with friends.

PAX South 2019 was my fourth PAX. I scheduled it very similarly to last year, front-loading my Friday full of press appointments  and leaving Sunday open to wander around and check things out at my own pace. I also almost exclusively remained on the show floor and tabletop areas.

I return exhausted but very satisfied, and sad that it all went by so quickly.

Day 0

Dinner
Johnny Carinos

This was the first year that Raymond couldn’t attend, though he actually lives the closest to San Antonio of any of us. Which meant we could meet him in dinner as we drove down!

Chris flew into DFW and drove down with us as he did last year – and this time my wife got to go! The four of us had dinner in Austin. By the time we got to the hotel it was around 11pm. The TRU by Hilton was smaller but nice, clean, and cheap! And also decently close to the convention center.

I had brought several board games to play on Thursday night but we only got through a single game of Sagrada before we were tired from the 4+ hour drive.

Day 1

Video Games
Days Gone
Dark Devotion
Young Souls
Bee Simulator
Disjunction
Final Assault
Project Witchstone
Dicey Dungeons
Aqua Lungers
Ion Maiden
Mowing and Throwing
Fantasy Strike
Evolution
Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove
Eternity: The Last Unicorn
Re-Legion
Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones
Raiders of the North Sea

Tabletop Game
Now Boarding
The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Nyctophobia
Architects of the West Kingdom

Dinner
Maria Mia

Like last year I packed my Friday full of back-to-back press appointments. It works well but is super exhausting.

I was a bit late arriving to the Early Media Hour, but I was able to jump in to the Sony booth and play a 15-minute demo of Days Gone. They had a large, gory booth right in the middle of the show floor. Days Gone played better than I was expecting, and I got some solid State of Decay vibes, though I rolled my eyes at the edgy tone.

From there I glanced at Developer Digital, didn’t notice anything particularly new or noteworthy (unlike last year) and instead went to The Arcade Crew to play Dark Devotion (Dead Cells meets Dark Souls) and Young Souls (Co-op brawler-RPG). After that the show floor opened and it was appointment time. As you can see above, I saw and played a TON of games.

At one point I had to huff it to the nearby Grand Hyatt up to the 3rd floor to play an RTS VR game called Final Assault. I’ve never had particularity good VR experiences but this one was easily the best, with a fun tabletop wargame aesthetic as you dropped troops right onto the battlefield.

Stand out games for me were Dicey Dungeons, a simple but fun roguelike dungeon crawler using dice that desperately needs a mobile version, Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove which looked way more enjoyable and well-put together than I was expecting, and Stygian: Reign of the Old Gods, which resembled a Cthulhu version of an old Fallout RPG.

I didn’t have time for many board game companies on Friday, but I did swing by to say hello to Tim Fowers of Fowers Games and Trey Chambers at Level 99 Games. I also chatted with Pandasaurus’ new marketing manager, and hope to expand a full feature on their company for Tabletop Gaming Magazine.

I also got to interview Matt Hudson from Dire Wolf Digital about all the new digital board games they’re making, as well as Clank Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated. Then we geeked out about Tomb of Annihilation together!

Reese and Rachelle met us in the afternoon, though I didn’t really get a chance to chat or hang out given my schedule. We even went to different dinners, as I had the Dire Wolf appointment at 6, and Heather was getting her Acq Inq autographs (she was first in line!) Heather and I had dinner at a delicious tex-mex place, Maria Mia, which is basically a tradition at this point, as is returning to the Tabletop freeplay area afterward.

We only played one game that evening: Architects of the West Kingdom, but we all loved it and ended with a tree way tie, going to the 2nd tiebreaker!

Day 2

Video Games
Magequit
Projection: First Light
JackQuest
Obey Me
Rezplz
A Fold Apart
Bombfest

Tabletop Games

Dinner
Yard House

Saturday was a bit different this year because they moved the Acquisitions Incorporated game from afternoon to evening, 8p-11p. While this did give us a whole afternoon, we quickly realized that trying to navigate the show floor on Saturday is kind of awful – way more crowded!

I had several more appointments to get through. Lots of indie games that show well at PAX are little more than Mario Party-style minigames. That being said, Magequit was one of the best of those style games I played, capable of supporting up to 10 players in quick rounds where you gain more and more spells.

Rezplz was another standout game and the lanky brothers at Longneck Studios were both friendly and informative to talk to. They were going fulltime and bringing their co-op puzzle-platformer to Kickstarter, but seemed very well prepared for it.

Saturday was when I attended my only panel this year, a companion talk to Ashley Brandin’s Gaming in Education, which is particularly applicable to one of the main gaming sites I write for, Pixelkin.org. Panels take time away from playing games and talking to devs on the show floor, so I typically don’t schedule more than one or two.

The highlight of my day came from chatting with folks. I got to interview Civilization 5 designer Jon Shafer at hotel lobby about his interesting career leading up to finally releasing At the Gates this week. Good dude!

And then when we were resting mid-afternoon in the tabletop area, a fan of our YouTube channel, Ikarus Gaming, who was attending PAX with his son, found us! He was very nice and we took some pics together.

We had to get an early dinner to be ready for Acq Inq that night. We ate at the Yard House, which was pricey but delicious, and right across from Maria Mia.

The timing worked out great. We got in line around 7p as the queue line filled around us. We had great seats right in the front-middle and enjoyed the show, always one of our favorite parts of the entire convention.

Day 3

Video Games
Splitgate: Arena Warfare
Last Epoch

Tabletop Games
Crimopolis
Spy Club
Eschaton
Valor & Villainy: Minions of Mordak
Guardian’s Call
Imperium
Bad Maps
Bosk
Secret Unknown Stuff: Escape from Dulce

Dinner
Whataburger

The last day of PAX is all about tabletop games. I had only a single appointment and it was first thing in the morning offsite at a hotel lobby (three offsite appointments this year, yeesh).

I went around to most of the new and upcoming games at the Tabletop Indie Showcase, and visited any booths I had my eye on but hadn’t had time before, such as Floodgate Games, Foxtrot Games, and Skybound Games. We also had a really fun demo experience from Craig Sawyer at Sentient Cow Games, playing the D&D-like sci-fi RPG Escape from Dulce.

Oh and we also ran into Jerry Holkins. I told him I was worried about his character Omin after the game on Saturday! He was immediately nice and friendly. I think I get a chance to chat with him almost every year.

And of course, some merch shopping, including picking up some spiffy player mats from the Dice Throne folks. Have I mentioned that Dice Throne S2 is one of the most impressive Kickstarter board games I’ve ever seen?

We left around 5:30p and met Raymond for dinner again near Austin, this time for fast food as our pockets were considerably lighter.

PAX South was fun, busy, productive, and wonderful, as always. A great chance to get together with friends as well as network with industry folks and play games. See you next year, San Antonio!

Goodreads Review – The Ring of Winter

The Ring of Winter (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers, #5)The Ring of Winter by James Lowder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Primarily read because of any possible ties to our ongoing Tomb of Annihilation campaign. It’s a short, easy read with paper-thin characters, but it’s a decent little swashbuckling adventure in the jungles of Chult. Too many goblins and not enough of everything else, however, as Artus Cimber hunts the Ring of Winter, befriends goofy talking wombats, battles dinosaurs, and meets the immortal defenders of Mezro. The brief but intriguing Ras Nsi cameo and the climax featuring the unleashed Ring of Winter are the most relevant sections to ToA, though Artus himself is a generically boring hero. Not a horrible book but not exactly a memorable adventure.

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Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Darkest Dungeon

An excellent, unique 2D tactical dungeon crawler severely hampered by late-game pacing.

Adventuring through my backlog of games, one game at a time. 

Developer: Red Hook Studios
Publisher: Merge Games
Release Date: August 19, 2016
Played On: PC

I live streamed my entire play through of Darkest Dungeon!

There’s a lot to like about Darkest Dungeon. The XCOM-like heroes who are both crucial and disposable. The large variety of character classes and build styles. The synergy between classes and skills, and the rewarding knowledge of enemies and lairs. And the way the art, music, narration, and difficulty all tie into the richly immersive eldritch horror theme.

I should have fallen in love and never looked back, but the tactical dungeon crawler began giving off a foul stench as it tried to last long past its expiration date, all but ruining the entire experience.

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DMs Guild Review – The Tome of Cartography

A review copy of “The Tome of Cartography” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

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Published by: Arturo Garcia

Unless you run your tabletop games purely within the theater of the mind, you need maps. Overland region maps, settlement maps, dungeon maps, hex grids, squares, cut-aways, oh my!

The Tome of Cartography” aims to improve your map-making skills, but fails at providing any new information beyond the obvious, and is further hampered by numerous grammatical errors, poor organization, and basic font style.

Continue reading “DMs Guild Review – The Tome of Cartography”