A procedurally generated monster manual with nearly 300 monsters.
A review copy of “Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters” was provided by the publisher. Find more Tabletop Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.
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Designed by: Todd Otto
“Procedurally generated” is a common buzzword (buzzphrase?) in gaming. It basically means content that is more intelligently randomly generated, involving parameters, settings, and algorithms.
“Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters” is a procedurally generated monster manual. The 285 enemies within aren’t even generated until you purchase the PDF, creating a uniquely bizarre concoction of mad-libs Frankenstein monsters that I don’t see any DM wanting to actually use.
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The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I wish Goodreads allowed half-stars. As much as I still adore Jemisin’s writing and world-building, I didn’t quite love the second novel in The Broken Earth trilogy as much as the first.
*VAGUE SPOILERS BELOW*
I was fascinated with the character evolution of Schaffa, but his (and Nassun’s) storyline plods along slower than I would have liked. Likewise I didn’t expect Essun to remain in Castrima for the entirety of the novel, though I enjoyed the socio-political developments, interesting minor characters, and the climactic battle. The best parts were learning about the fascinating world and history, and a much deeper dive into the stone eaters, as well as the awesome and satisfying reveal of the first-person narrator.
Make no mistake, this is still a 5-star series, and an incredible blend of apocalyptic sci-fi, fantasy, great characters, and excellent world-building.
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Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The fourth Expanse book almost has the opposite problem of the third book, it sets up the characters, setting, and conflict in an exciting way, then drags on for most of the second half of the book.
Cibola Burn tackles early settlement of the first of the new worlds opened up by the gates at the end of the third book. A renegade group of Belters were the first through the gate, and by the time a giant corporation ship from Earth arrives to document, research, and set up facilities, the squatters/settlers are already entrenched, leading to political conflict, especially when the squatters sabotage the newly arrived ship.
In comes James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante to mediate. The human drama take precedent over the exotic alien planet, but the new characters (including a returning old one from the first book) are all solid new additions, particularly the villainous Murtry and passionate scientist Dr. Elvi Okoye.
A cataclysmic event separates the two halves of the novel, and the second half slows to a crawl as we transition into man vs nature. There are two main storylines, and the orbiting ships in space becomes way more interesting and action-packed than the plodding survival story on the planet’s surface.
I still love this series and the characters are fantastic, but so far most of them could benefit from better pacing and about 100 fewer pages.
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In 2014 Triumph Studios revitalized the niche 4X strategy series Age of Wonders with the excellent Age of Wonders 3. After two solid expansion packs the studio quietly began working on their next project, and was acquired by Swedish publisher Paradox Interactive, known for big, densely packed strategy games.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall is the long-awaited next step in the franchise. It’s less of an evolutionary leap forward, but builds upon the successes of Age of Wonders 3 along with several smart and fun gameplay improvements and dozens hours of replayability.
The second stand-alone expansion to excellent asymmetrical card game Disney Villainous, Evil Comes Prepared, finally adds Scar as a playable villain, along with dark-horse picks Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove and Professor Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective. Scar is mildly disappointing but the others make up for it with unique and interesting play styles, proving that Villainous continues to host an impressive pantheon of Disney favorites.
Once upon a time, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there was a fun, easy to play, co-op action brawler series called X-Men Legends. Later they bequeathed the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series, featuring a huge roster of Marvel heroes and villains in co-op action full of fireballs, laser blasts, swift punches, sword strikes, and plenty of shield-throwing and Hulk-smashing.
The series lay dormant for the last decade, until now. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a triumphant return, showcasing classic comic book writing, art, and action in a post-MCU world. The Black Order retains the deep stat-based RPG elements while maintaining its easy and co-op-friendly action gameplay with an impressive amount of content and replayability.
Super Mario Maker was a clever delight when it launched in 2015 on Wii U. The simple premise – a full editor suite for making and playing Mario levels across multiple eras – was an instant hit, recreating the dreams of many a dreamy kid scratching out level designs in a school notebook.
The Switch sequel keeps the same solid editing and classic Mario gameplay, while adding several high quality pieces, a vastly expanded story mode, and online and local multiplayer.