Rogue’s Adventures Season Five Recap

From Portal 2 to Assassin’s Creed IV I recap another awesome Season of backlog gaming.


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Read my Season One Recap
Read my Season Two Recap
Read my Season Three Recap
Read my Season Four Recap

Rogues Adventure Season Five collageWelcome to my bi-annual Recap for a full Season of Rogue’s Adventures! If you’re new, Rogue’s Adventures is what I call the organized playthrough of my never-ending backlog of games. Started back in 2012, I schedule a collection of games to be played over the course of five to six months. I live tweet my reactions and screenshots, occasionally live stream and record video, and always write a full retro-review of the title under my Final Thoughts banner.

Season Five encompassed the first half of 2015. Continuing the trend from Season Four, I mostly played more recent titles released in the last few years that had become deeply discounted. Both Shadowrun: Dragonfall and South Park: The Stick of Truth released just last year. The oldest title on Season Five’s schedule was Cthulhu Saves the World (Dec 2010).

If there was an unexpected trend in this Season’s crop, it was humor. Six of the Nine total games I played were crafted with a humorous bent, and all of them hit the mark superbly. Portal 2 lived up to its beloved hype, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon fully embraced its over-the-top 80s ridiculousness, and South Park: The Stick of Truth perfectly captured the irreverent but clever tone and jokes of the show. Humor is a very tricky thing to pull off but all of them tickled my funny bone in their own unique ways.

This Season was also about trying new things. I’d never before played a Far Cry, Call of Juarez, or Assassin’s Creed game. The first two were silly, short, and enjoyable spin-off games that let me play around with the gameplay without having to devote dozens of hours. With Assassin’s Creed I finally saw one that had a theme and setting I just couldn’t resist – pirates!

I’m also pleased that for the first time ever in a Season of Rogue’s Adventures, I really didn’t have any major disappointments. Every single one of these games was fun to play and a positive experience, though some certainly more than others. Ranking them proved to be quite difficult.  Continue reading “Rogue’s Adventures Season Five Recap”

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Session 3 Report

The runners fend off a sudden kidnapping strike force in the middle of a psychedelic concert performance.

Watch our sessions live on every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “The Bodyguards” Session 1 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 2 Report

If last week’s seemingly random events surrounding a rock concert resulted in hilarious shenanigans, this week was much more focused and down to business. The role-playing and fun random characters were neat distractions but I still had to move the story forward, and for that I had to unleash a squad of stealthy hit-men into the venue.

The players’ main job as temp security guards were to protect the star attraction – indie singer Lana Grace. Unfortunately for them her talents extended to both her musical ability as well as some latent magical skills that resulted in the players entering a euphoric high while she performed.

During the performance my anti-runner team got into place, and all hell broke loose once they hit her with a tranq dart from the catwalks. A pair emerged onto the catwalks to grab her and fend off the players. Another cast an illusory spell on a dragon statue on stage making it seemingly spring to life and panic the crowd below, and another set off a bomb in the backstage bathrooms to cement their getaway. Roll for initiative!


They didn’t get too far. I had written outcomes for the two possibilities of Lana getting kidnapped or being rescued, and the runners made fairly short work of the foes. Thus far I feel like I may be babying my players a bit as most encounters have felt like a piece of cake from my point of view, with little to no damage being sustained by the players.

In this case the kidnapping team were loaded with nonlethal rounds and were mainly trying to snatch and grab, so they were more interested in running than fighting. They were also unprepared for the players being there at all, so while they were equipped to handle some resistance, the players took them down fairly easily.

Even a fairly small combat encounter can take awhile in Shadowrun, and this one got a bit annoying as all but one of them went down quickly, while the last one was hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned and mainly just tried to flee – not terribly climatic! More exciting was Falkirk tazing one on a catwalk then having to roll Gymnastics to catch the falling unconscious Lana!

After the break the players got a surprising explanation from Lana herself after she came to, and her unfortunate past and parents’ ties with the Yakuza. At this point I was running out of material that I had prepared so I kind of sped things along. The adventure ends up becoming a Two in One. The initial job offer of working security for one show is technically over, but now the players have been hired by Lana herself to retrieve some blackmail-worthy evidence on her parents to use as leverage.

To do so they’ll need to get into her parent’s well-guarded mansion for their own smash-and-grab scenario. I was delighted to find my players already discussing different tactics on how to get in – including using their captured adversaries to gain access. Looking forward to it!

Watch our sessions live on every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag

An amazingly fun open world pirate adventure that would better served without the Assassin’s Creed franchise trappings.

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.

AC 4 Black FlagDeveloper: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

Release Date: October 29, 2013


Assassin’s Creed is one of many major game franchises that I have never played, and never had much interest in (see also Metal Gear Solid, and any horror franchise). I didn’t have anything particularly against it (other than Ubisoft’s terrible treatment of the PC) but the historical settings didn’t really excite me, and the themes seemed a bit dour and serious for my taste.

Enter Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, my first Assassin’s Creed game. Black Flag takes place in the early 18th century, during the height of merchant trade, colonization, and pirates along the new world and the Caribbean. I adore the pirate theme – the ships that act as your mobile command center, the unique combination of swords and pistols, the dichotomy of lawlessness and imperialism. It translates so well to gaming it’s a shame we haven’t seen more pirate games. I still count Sid Meier’s Pirates! as one of the best, and the remake is over 10 years old.

Thus I finally decided to give an Assassin’s Creed game a chance, after a hefty Steam sale of course. Black Flag immediately immersed me into its fun world of pirate assassins, naval combat, and the open world of the Caribbean sea. In many ways it embodies the modern AAA video game – dumb story, cliché characters, incredible production values and tons of collectibles and modern gaming conveniences.  Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1

“The Five Nightmares” introduces the son of Obediah Stane out for revenge against Tony Stark.

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!

Invincible Iron Man Vol. 1Writer: Matt Fraction

Artist: Salvador Larroca

Issues: Invincible Iron Man #1-6


The first Iron Man film released in 2008, setting the stage for the incredible Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s seemingly taken over most of Hollywood, and cemented superhero films as the defacto Blockbuster genre.

To coincide with the film’s release, Marvel did the smart thing and started a brand new Iron Man comic series – Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca. The timing was a bit weird – it actually started while Iron Man’s previous self-titled series was still wrapping up before ending with a brief War Machine Secret Invasion tie-in (which was quite enjoyable).

The previous Iron Man series was a bit hit or miss but ultimately came away glad I read it. I was never a big fan of Iron Man growing up (or the Avengers really). I’d go as far to see that Iron Man was teetering on C or D-list fame until 2006’s Civil War catapulted him to the spotlight. Suddenly Stark was Director of SHIELD and one of the most important people in the Marvel Universe, a theme that would continue to this day. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1”

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Session 2 Report

Everything that can go wrong will go wrong when our shadowrunners work security at a rock concert in our funniest session yet.

Watch our sessions live on every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “The Bodyguards” Session 1 Report

For our third Shadowrun adventure I really wanted to try something different. Our previous mission was very combat heavy as I shuffled my runners from scene to scene as they made their journey to downtown Seattle. This time I created a single, gigantic scene in Roll20 where multiple events transpire – and only a few involve actual combat.

In our previous session the runners had purchased eqiupment and scoped out the location of the warehouse-turned-concert hall The Dragon’s Maw. They’d been hired as temporary security guards to beef up the staff for an indie rock label and their star performing artist – Lana Grace. One night only, and anything can happen.

As a GM I like to overplan as much I can so I’m at least somewhat prepared for any unexpected things my players do. I also shepherd them somewhat, and even within a single scene I had events happening all around them to replicate the feel of being part of a security team. Since the players all split up to handle different tasks and areas, I also switched around to make sure I didn’t focus on any one player or situation for too long, and made sure everyone got to do something.


Before the opening band even took the stage I had a salvo of events lined up to take place. Most of them were just little side story kernels with a few notes. I was stepping a bit out of my comfort zone by having to ad-lib much of the specific dialogue and events, but it ended up being a hell of a lot of fun – I don’t think we’ve laughed so much and so hard in an adventure yet, and I was complimented on my voice acting (having a young child you read to every day helps immensely with this).

The folks backstage had to screen backstage passers to get into see Lana, a fun an direct way to screen people and use skills like Perception to find weapons and Judge Intentions to see how they were acting. I planted some questionable folks, some earnest ones, and even a creepy vampire – whom was totally allowed inside and subsequently had to be fought and put down! The dance floor area involved people trying to sneak backstage (which lead to a funny confrontation between the unstable decker of the group), and a drug peddler that was high on his own supply. The players guarding the entrance had to deal with a ticket scalper.

Most of these events were heavy on the role-playing and light on skill checks, and only the vampire ended up having any actual combat. It was a fun chance to let loose with some play acting and everyone ended up having a really fun time with it. Once the warm-up band took the stage I had a few more events transpire – like a streaker trying to run onto the stage.

All these mini-events ended up taking up all our time for the session, and we ended before our star actually hit the stage. I was nervous going into this session how well this system of seemingly random events would pan out, and if I ‘d be able to handle multiple things happening at once with the party split up. It ended up working out really well, and I’m pleased to see everyone having fun on a much more role-playing heavy session. Tune in next time to see if any more shenanigans arise when the star takes the stage!

Watch our sessions live on every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Secret Invasion

In 2008 Marvel launched their biggest crossover mega-event yet, a full scale alien invasion by the shape-shifting skrulls that pulled together all the Avengers.

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!

Secret Invasion coverWriter: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Leinil Francis Yu

Issues: Secret Invasion #1-8

For these Final Thoughts I also included the following tie-ins and limited series:

Avengers: The Initiative #14-19
Mighty Avengers #12-20
New Avengers #38-47
Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1
Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1-4
Secret Invasion: Thor #1-3
Secret Invasion: War Machine #33-35 (from Iron Man)
Secret Invasion: X-Men #1-4


“He loves you.”
“Um, he who?”
“Yeah? Well my God has a hammer!”

If Avengers Disassembled lead into the modern Marvel era of massive crossover events, then the time period in 2008 could be its pinnacle.  From ’07 the Planet Hulk revenge story/sequel World War Hulk and the cosmic sequel Annihilation: Conquest ravaged parts of Earth and the entire universe respectively. Without even catching a breath the X-Men experienced their biggest crossover in years with the epic Messiah Complex event. Directly afterward Marvel played their biggest hand yet: the skrull-powered Secret Invasion mega-event.

Spanning most of 2008, bringing together nearly every ongoing series at the time, and completely changing the ongoing structure and politics of the Marvel world for the following year, Secret Invasion was as big an event as Marvel had ever run. To pull off the long con, Marvel architect Brian Michael Bendis had to start crafting years in advance, sowing the seeds for the violent and shocking return of the shape-shifting alien skrulls as far back as 2004-05 – ironically the time period I chose to jump back into Marvel comics with.

The event had been teased and prodded in several issues of both Might Avengers and New Avengers – especially New Avengers #31, when the team kills Elektra only to find a dead skrull in her place. A similar shock occurs in the final issue of New Avengers: Illuminati. Black Bolt, leader of the Inhumans is revealed to be a skrull sleeper agent. Though he fails in killing the rest of the illuminati, the seeds of distrust and concern do their damage, breaking up the clandestine group of super-leaders.

Secret Invasion #3

From there the event moves into full swing. Like most major Marvel Events before it, Secret Invasion received its own special series that brought in just about every active Avenger at the time. This leaves the actual Avengers series scrambling to include relevant tie-ins, leading to a surprisingly eloquent solution of using those series to detail more of the skrulls’ backstory. The two main Avenger trades at the time all delved into the lead-up to the Invasion and how thoroughly ingrained the shape-shifting alien goblins were in our society throughout the last few years.

The biggest skrull surprises reveal main villains Spider-Woman and Hank Pym (Yellowjacket). Spider-Woman had been Bendis’ pet project for years; a relatively minor D-lister who was elevated to an interesting and compelling character that ended up joining both active Avenger squads at various points.

It was all a lie, as she’s revealed to be Queen Veranke, leader and religious figurehead of the skrulls. I found it quite fascinating that the skrulls were not simply alien invaders but religious fanatics that truly believed the Earth was theirs by right. All the skrulls repeat the line “He loves you,” and it’s quite shocking when we learn that they are referring to God.

Secret Invasion #3bAlthough the skrulls’ main tactic was to infiltrate and take over Earth from the inside, the main series starts with a bang as they attack with a full-blown assault and invasion while the bulk of the Avengers are mired in the Savage Land. A skrull ship crashlands and out walks a bunch of Avengers in old costumes from the 70s, a classic alien abduction story-telling device that reminded me of the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Unfortunately our heroes spend way too long dealing with this weird development as both sides yell “No, you’re a skrull” before devolving into a battle royale.

Meanwhile back in New York (the only place alien invasions really take place), the defense of Earth is left up to the Young Avengers, and they have a hell of a time against the newly super-powered skrulls. Not only have the skrulls developed technology to remain completely undetected, but they can also replicate just about every superpowered person in the Marvel Universe. Apparently the costume is part of the package deal, so our heroes fight skrulls dressed as Cyclops, Thor, and even Galactus, leading to some incredibly epic and fun battles.

It helps that the art is absolutely fantastic. I’d commented before that Leinil Yu’s art was very interesting and pencil-heavy on New Avengers. Here it evolves into a nice balance between evocative, detailed faces and explosive colors. His style lends to a slightly polygonal shaping to figures which I kind of dug, making it distinct without becoming too distracting. After Secret Invasion, Yu may have become one of my favorite Marvel artists.

Our Savage Land, Avenger-skrull problem is dealt with by Agent Abigail Brand of SWORD, Earth’s liason into space (sort of a cross between SHIELD and the Men in Black). Brand was actually created by Joss Whedon back in Astonishing X-Men, an awesome half-alien, no-nonsense woman with green hair and some minor powers.

Her ship is blown to hell when the skrulls invade but she manages to get inside another one and single-handedly free the captured and tortured Mr. Fantastic. Together she and Reed Richards fly down to the Savage Land where Richards’ quickly assembled super-device (as he does) reveals all the skrulls in an area. Drama ensues, fights break out, and our heroes finally get back to New York where the real giant battle commences.

Secret Invasion #6

Meanwhile Nick Fury has finally revealed himself, and he has his own team of Secret Warriors he’s assembled himself. Fury was one of the few people on Earth that sensed the skrull threat, and had been off the radar (and written out of most Marvel comics) since his Secret War event in 2004. The twist that he’d been working on fighting the eventual skrull invasion this whole time is a neat idea, and I liked that he was just as ornery, grizzled, and unlikable as I remember him. The backstory on his ragtag team of new heroes is detailed in one of the Mighty Avengers tie-ins, and they eventually spin off into their own Secret Warriors series, which I’ll definitely be reading.

The final battle is supremely satisfying, with issue #7 just one gigantic battle between the superpowered skrulls and all the various Avenger teams, as well as Red Hood’s street-villain group and Norman Osborn’s government-approved Thunderbolts. Lots of crazy cool moments leap off the page, like The Watcher showing up, Marvel Boy crashing in, and Hawkeye wielding a bow and arrow for the first time in years to shoot Veranke in the face.

The skrulls get the last laugh, however. Remember how Hank Pym was really a skrull? He’d previously given his ex-wife Janet (The Wasp) a new growth formula that was actually a deadly biological bomb. Skrull-Pym uses his dying breath to activate it, and she suddenly grows with a strange energy. Thor is forced to put her down using tornadoes to blow her particles away to save everyone else. Our heroes are not pleased, but it’s Norman Osborn, the recovering Green Goblin turned government man and leader of the Thunderbolts that gets the killing blow on Veranke.

Secret Invasion #8

From there the skrulls finally surrender and the war is over. The government praises Norman Osborn and his team, dissolves SHIELD, and puts Osborn as head of a new world order. Osborn immediately gathers together a secret team of would-be super-villains – the anti-illuminati, as his Cabal. He tells Namor, Doctor Doom, Loki, Red Hood, and Emma Frost that they can work together, and as the man on the inside he can let everyone get away with it.

Without yet reading the Thunderbolts tie-ins, Osborn’s sudden rise to power felt a bit rushed at the end, but I am intrigued by this new world that embraces the Freedom versus Security theme that Marvel had been exploring for years. Dark Reign sounds like we go full on 1984!

While the two main Avengers trades covered various backstories, Avengers: The Initiative went in a crazy side-story direction. Delroy Garrett the, er, 3-D Man, pulls a They Live when he realizes his special hand-me-down goggles can see who’s really a skrull. Around the same time Camp Hammond, home to the main Initiative training base and recruitment is fully taken over by skrulls, led by skrull-Pym, and 3-D Man embarks on a crazy odyssey to warn the other Initiative teams around the country and fight the skrulls.

secret invasionThe weird thing about The Initiative series is that all the original characters I enjoyed all graduated and went their separate ways in the last volume. The Secret Invasion issues solve that problem somewhat by having 3-D Man meet up with many of the members, now dispersed amongst their own various state-sponsored super-teams. Most of them are incredibly dorky with some of the lamest superhero costumes and concepts you’ve never heard of.

The story goes in some weird places and eventually ends in an climactic multi-stage battle involving skrull-Pym’s plan to use a weapon of mass destruction – which you never hear about in the main Secret Invasion story. It’s completely ancillary and very skippable, though the art is quite nice and the story remains entertaining, even if it involves the most D-list of D-listers.

Like many Marvel events Secret Invasion launched with multiple limited series, allowing characters and teams to be involved without taking over their current series (a welcome strategy). Of the half-dozen or so limited series, I read X-Men, Inhumans, and Thor, as well as the end of the then-current Iron Man series which is taken over by a brief but fun War Machine arc that spins off out of Avengers: The Initiative. Whew!

James Rhodes wasn’t a big character at the time but I really enjoyed his brief spotlight, which includes using a giant mech-satellite to kick skrull spaceship ass, then going to Russia and helping out their superteam against the skrull invaders. I had no idea Rhodey was now a cyborg who needed the armor to live, and combined with brief flashes of him as a bullied but stalwart teen made War Machine a pretty fantastic character to read about. I’m looking forward to reading the official series that starts up next, though it looks like it only lasted twelve issues.

iron man war machine secret invasion #34Secret Invasion: Thor was definitely the strongest of all the limited series tie-ins I read with fantastic art and a short story that respects what J. Michael Straczynski is doing with Thor in his then-current series. Thor’s first job is to protect Asgard, and following that it’s to protect the people of Broxton, Oklahoma, where Asgard currently resides.

Thor shares a body with Doctor Donald Blake, and Dr. Blake delivering a baby amidst the stormy crisis of the skrull invasion juxtaposes wonderfully with the war the Asgards wage against the alien threat. It also brings in Thor co-star Beta Ray Bill, aka that weird alien horse Thor who’s all kinds of awesome, and they spend the majority of the comic fighting their own super-powered skrull. It’s short and sweet, but also action-packed and intense – a wonderful tie-in.

Secret Invasion: X-Men was unfortunately the weakest, with a dull, bland art that made many of the X-Men look eerily similar to the goblin-like skrulls they were battling. The skrulls invade the X-Men’s new home of San Fransisco, and they respond accordingly. Everything’s fairly boring and predictable until the final issue, when Cyclops pulls off a rather hardcore biological attack, infecting the skrulls with the same Legacy Virus plague that nearly wiped out mutants years ago. Cyke’s willingness to do whatever it takes nicely reflects his recent character evolution, but the whole adventure just came off super forgettable. Sorry X-Men, you’ve got plenty of your own problems!

secret invasion inhumans #2The Inhumans series is a bit of a mixed bag. It starts out well enough, with the royal family still reeling from the knowledge that Black Bolt was a sleeper agent skrull for some time. Just as the seeds of suspicion are planted, the skrulls openly attack the moon-based Attilan. While everyone fights, Medusa, Gorgon, Triton, Karnak, and Crystal (the only Inhumans that are ever really given any personality or recognition) mount a space-faring journey to rescue the real Black Bolt, who’s currently being tortured and weaponized by the skrulls.

Medusa ends up meeting up with Ronan the Accuser and forges an alliance, which has interesting repercussions going forward. Things get a little crazy as we split up into three teams to go to three different planets and gather McGuffins to track the skrulls. Eventually Black Bolt is rescued in the nick of time, and the Inhumans declare their official alliance with the Kree, and their continued distaste of Earth and all its problems, leading the Inhumans to enter the more Cosmic-side of Marvel stories going forward. It’s an interesting development and makes Secret Invasion: Inhumans quite important, but as its own story it’s just okay. None of the characters are interesting or compelling and the plot and action are just too much to squeeze into a four issue arc.

While Secret Invasion relies heavily on its initial surprise twists and reveals of ‘They were a skrull the whole time,’ the story of an explosive alien invasion with a lot of premeditated planning is a fun event for the Marvel-verse to tackle. The mostly lame skrulls are used in awesome and terrifying ways, though the actual consequences of the war don’t feel nearly as harsh as Civil War‘s. I loved their religious fanaticism and Queen Veranke (as Spider-Woman) is a fun villain – the quick scene where she tries to convince a sick Tony Stark that he’s their top skrull agent is absolutely delicious, and I wished the story had gone more in that direction. Instead we end up getting a fairly standard, albeit awesome battle at the end, and Yu’s art is phenomenal. I’ve generally been a fan of Marvel’s events thus far, and Secret Invasion definitely didn’t disappoint.

Secret Invasion #8 cabal

New Article – LEGO Worlds Early Access Preview

LEGO Worlds expertly captures the feel of playing and building with LEGO bricks with the addictive open-ended exploration and building of Minecraft.

Read the full Preview on Pixelkin

lego worlds

The biggest and most obvious inspiration for Minecraft is LEGO. Those venerable little stacking bricks rose from humble Danish beginnings to become one of the most popular toys in the world. Over the last decade, the brand has successfully expanded into video games using its incredibly lucrative licensing deals, making games of popular franchises like Star Wars and Batman. The focus on kid-friendly, cooperative gaming has made these games hugely popular for families.

Now we have finally come full circle, as LEGO returns to its block-building roots by lifting core gameplay from Minecraft. LEGO Worlds was recently released in Early Access on Steam, meaning the game is still in active development, but can be purchased and played right now. Despite a current lack of major features like multiplayer, LEGO Worlds expertly captures the feel of playing and building with LEGO bricks with the addictive open-ended exploration and building of Minecraft.

Read the full Preview on Pixelkin