Archive for July 2016

Ghostbusters 2016

ghostbusters_ver6I went and saw the new Ghostbusters recently.

I was optimistic going in as I have enjoyed The Heat and his episodes of Nurse Jackie.

After coming out of the theater, I will say that I loved the movie. I laughed, I cheered, and I came out wanting to see the movie again.

The part that I enjoyed the most about this movie were the characters. In the same vein as the original, Erin, Abby, Holtzmann, and Patty each fulfills a particular role. We have the scientist, the idea person, the mad scientist, and the worker. Each actress embodies their role while also providing a driving motivation. Erin wants to be seen as a scientist while still believing in the paranormal. Abby wants to be able to pursue her love of the paranormal as a viable job. Holtzmann wants to be able to continue to create her bizarre technological creations. Patty wants to be a part of a group that values her and what she has to contribute. Each of these pieces seem disparate and disjointed. Like a pile of jigsaw pieces stack upon one another, the image is discordant. As the movie movie proceeds we get to watch as the pieces move about and shows the individual scene placed atop each one. Then we watch as they find their places among the other pieces to create an even larger picture.

Delightful!

I enjoyed the action movie aspects of this movie as well. In this version of the Ghostbusters, we are presented with the group before they have perfected their craft. There is no containment unit so the ghosts that are trapped are stuck in the trap until they can develop something. The story progresses so that trapping the ghosts is not a viable option. Hotlzmann designs gadgets that will allow the group to deal with the threat in a way that is tailored to each member of the team. In particular, I love the ghost destroying cestus that are designed for Abby. They hit that action hero feel in the way that they are look and are used in the movie.

An adrenalin pumping moment in the film.

Holtzmann and Patty made me love this film as well. Holtzmann is the quintessential mad scientist. She is brilliant and weird and nice and unapologetic about all of these things. She comes up with the ideas for the gadgets that allow the group to do what they do but works well with the group to make sure everyone is prepared for what comes next. Patty is the strong outsider that is confident in her identity. She knows that she is not a scientist but understand that what she does know will help the group. She presents her knowledge and experience in a manner that demands attention and gains her the respect that she deserves. Neither are the driving force of the Ghostbusters but each, in their own way, makes it possible for Abby and Erin to keep the group going. I can identify with both of these characters.

Ghostbusters gets four bear paws out of four from me. It blends characters, comedy, action and story to create a fun and entertaining movie. If you have time, I highly recommend seeing Ghostbusters on the big screen. You will not be disappointed.

Also, stay through  the credits to watch the bits and pieces of music video-like scene that didn’t make it into the movie. Hilarious!

GenCon Survival Guide 2016

GenCon, the best four days of gaming, will soon be upon us. If you are a tabletop roleplaying gamer, you are most likely familiar with GenCon. For those unaware of the event, It is a four day gaming convention held in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is held every year around the first weekend of August. GenCon 2016 is being held August 4th through the 7th.

I thought I would reprise my post from last year where I give out some tips for surviving GenCon for both someone new and the veteran con attendee.

Let us begin with the basics, the 3-2-1 rule.

The first part of the rule is that you should get at least three hours of sleep. GenCon has things happening twenty-four hours a day and it is tempting to want to do as much as possible during this time. As much as it would be tempting to push sleep to the back burner during this time, this has negative consequences for both you and others. You are at GenCon to enjoy the games you love and meet people that share your hobby. This is will be very difficult if you are crabby and and distracted from lack of sleep. In addition, Roleplaying games and board games require a level of attention that is difficult to maintain if your body is throwing delta waves in random bursts. You will not be up to your normal performance and the others at the table with you will be worried about you as you nod off.

The 2 in the 3-2-1 rule refers to meals…make sure to have at least two meals a day. You will be running around Indianapolis a lot. Unless you are playing only one game and are housed in the motel where that game is being played, you are going to be walking. This is also another place where you may think that you can gain time to play games and just catch a snack here or there and be good to go. Sure, you can run from game to game eating candy, cookies, and chips, but you will end up pushing an already taxed system to the the edge of it’s capability. If you make sure to take the time at least in the morning and the evening to eat a meal, you will be setting yourself up to be successful. You will provide your body with a base of energy from which you will be able to go forward and win the day, conquer the dungeon, and move all the meeples.

This brings us to one. Make sure to get at least one shower in each day. Indianapolis in August is hot. You will be walking a lot to get from your room, or your car to the games you will be playing. You also will be wandering around a large vendor hall for some time also. This will generate some sweat and stink which will make it more difficult for you to enjoy your time at GenCon. A shower each day will ensure that you are refreshed for your day and energized for all the fun you will have as well.

The 3-2-1 rule forms a foundation to enjoy GenCon and any convention that you may attend in the future. Make sure to keep it in mind as you make your plans for GenCon.

Now that we have covered the basics. You have to ask yourself a question about how you plan to attend GenCon. Are you going to wing it or do you have a plan?

If you are winging it, you need to be patient. GenCon had well over 50 thousand attendees last year. The predictions are that the convention will have another record breaking year for attendance. This means that there will be long lines for everything. This can easily be irritating and if you keep the idea that you just need to be patient you will be preparing yourself to enjoy your time at GenCon. Being patient will also stand you in good stead as you travel around the convention. The mass of humanity that is meandering about the convention and Indianapolis can move slowly and may stop to view a neat looking costume or to have a conversation. If you are patient, you will be able to get past them and move on towards your desired destination.

If you are winging it, you should also ask questions. Whenever you finish a game take the time to ask for recommendations for places to eat or booths to check out while in the vendor hall. This will increase your chances of finding a a new place to eat or a neat hidden gem in the vendor hall. You will be sitting down with an array of people that are here to enjoy the same thing you do. On top of this, you will learn about things to do around town which will not have anything to do with gaming. Even though you are at GenCon to get your game on, taking time out to just enjoy the city that you are in will keep you energized for the convention itself.

If you are a planner, you need to take a step back and analyze your plan. One of the things planners due is to schedule things back to back. They do this thinking that they will be able to make it to each game on time. The problem with this is that there are no planners that are nightcrawler or jumpers. It is going to take you time to get from game to game. You will either have to leave early from the game you are playing or arrive late at the game that you are going too. Neither of these scenarios are enjoyable for you or those playing in the game with you. Take a hard look at your schedule and the map and realize that you are not going to be running between games. Once you have done this, take the time to prune your schedule to leave yourself time to get from game to game in a leisurely fashion. This frees up your time to better enjoy your convention experience and frees up slots in games for others to enjoy more fully.

Planners should also remember to have a backup plan. Things go wrong because there is always chaos in the system. GM’s will get sick, tickets will be oversold, or you may end up running late and lose your seat in a game. Take it all in stride and go to the fallback plan. This will allow you to not worry when things go pear-shaped. You will be able to shrug and move on to your next option. This not only takes some weight of your shoulders in case it is something that happens to you but also makes for a more relaxed experience.

A last bit of advice for all attendees.

Think about someone other than yourself. This hobby of ours requires people to take part with us at the table. If you take the time to think about the other people at the table and make them comfortable, you will create a wonderful gaming experience for everyone. For some people sitting down to the table, this may be their first experience with the hobby. It also maybe the first time that they have tried gaming as everything they have tried around their home has been a bad experience. If you take the time to be empathetic and see the table from someone else’s perspective, you will try to make them feel welcome and accepted at the table and to the hobby. This also extends beyond just the table. Take time while you are walking around the convention and vendor hall to be aware of those around you. There are people from all walks of life that are attending GenCon. Take a little time to think about how you act and speak and wonder if this might make someone feel welcome. And, if you see someone struggling or lost, take the time to ask if they need help. If they do, you can take them to the nearest volunteer who can assist them with their questions or issues.

I am looking forward to GenCon 2015 this year! If you are going to be there please let me know as I am always up for meeting people that read my site!

 

Masks

MasksI had the distinct pleasure of getting to play the tabletop roleplaying game, Masks, over the weekend. I had backed the Big Bad Con Kickstarter at the Grandma’s Cottage level. This included a lot of stuff. One of those things was to participate in an online game with the designer, Brendan Conway. The reward did not mention the name of the game but I am always happy to give a new game a try.

A few emails later and I discover that our small group would be playing Masks, a superhero game that uses the Apocalypse World game mechanics. I was a happy camper. I love superheroes and Masks focuses on those heroes that are similar to the Teen Titans. After reading more about the game online, it felt more like the Teen Titans from the Wolfman and Perez era.

I was sold!

It was a wonderful session with just three players and the designer running us through an opening scenario.

Here are my thoughts on the game.

I will lead off that I am a bit biased when it comes to games that are Powered by the Apocalypse. The way the rules work from the fiction is something I love and will always give a game using this system a chance. Masks does an excellent job of using this rules system to bring the superhero genre to life. The dice mechanic is simple. Throughout play, your character is interacting with other players and NPCs. When you do or say something that can be interpreted of one of the Moves of the game, you will read the move, roll the dice, and then take further action based on the results. There are basic moves like Unleash your powers or Take a powerful blow. Each move lists what in the fiction would trigger it’s use and what stat you would add to the roll. You will then roll two D6 and add the appropriate stat. 6 or less and the Gm gets to determine what happens. 7-9 is a considered a hit and has a list of possible results that you get to choose from. 10 or more normally has an even better result.

The stats are the interesting part of Masks. You have your labels which take the place of things like strength, dexterity, and intelligence. These labels are things like freak, mundane, superior, danger, savior. These each represent how a character views themselves. If the view themselves as freaks, they will be better at unleashing their powers but may not see themselves as mundane. This will make it difficult for them to interact with normal people and connect with their teammates. These stats are fluid throughout the game as how your character views themselves is easily changed by the views of those they value and the adults around them.

Influence is the mechanic that allows for this fluidity. If a character has influence on you, this means the things they say can change how a character views themselves. Enough praise from an adult about being a savior, can push a low savior character to seeing themselves more like that. While an off hand comment by a valued teammate can leave a character not feeling very mundane but more of a freak. This along with the labels does an excellent job of capturing the feeling of comics featuring teenage superheroes.

Like other powered by the apocalypse games, the characters are set up around iconic characters from the genre. There is the Bull, the Nova, The Outsider, and so forth. Each of these Archetypes comes with a set of moves and mechanics that are specific to them. The Bull has the Love and Rival mechanic. This provides certain mechanical benefits centered around two different characters at the table which pushes the player of the bull to be involved with these two players throughout the game. Each character type has this baked in to be a driver for their interaction with the world and the other players.

I have to say that I really enjoyed Masks. It takes a genre that I enjoy and makes it something that is quick and easy to play while still having a depth of character and interaction that I crave. I appreciated that it took very little time to grasp the core rules behind the game and that it takes no time at all to customize a playbook to be what you really want. The moves do a wonderful job of creating the atmosphere that you would find in Teen Titans and the earlier Legion of Superheroes. I am always nervous and quiet around new people and I feel like I got into the game much more quickly than I would have with any other supers game. The people at the virtual table were a joy to play with on top f everything and Brendan did a wonderful job of getting us up to speed with how things worked and ran a great game.

A definite four bears paws out of four for Masks. My only complaint is that it isn’t available yet and when the Kickstarter was live that I did not have the money to be a backer. Brendan did say that we may see it available for purchase at Big Bad Con so I will keep my fingers crossed and cash ready to purchase this excellent game.

Here is the video of the game!

Detective Comics 934

imageI listen to Funny Books with Aron and Paulie and heard them talk about the Rebirth edition of Detective Comics. Their glowing review peaked my interest. I had another friend talk to me about the upcoming Batman stuff which pushed me over the tipping point and picking up issue 934.

I was not disappointed.

The issue starts with a bang. It presents us with imagery of Batman beating down Azrael in his own church. The fight is quick and brutal but is interrupted by the arrival of…Batman. When Batman asks Azrael who did this to him, he does not like the answer.

Cut to BatWoman swinging across Gotham.

After arriving home and unsuiting, Batwoman is visited by Batman. He wants her help. Whomever is masquerading as him has been watching the vigilantes of Gotham. The younger generation of heroes in Gotham are not prepared for this and he wants Batwoman to train them, prepare them. What follows is quintessential calling of the heroes. Batman and Batwoman gather up the Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, and Clayface and begins to train them to better survive the coming confrontation.

There is so much to love about this book!

The art is gorgeous. The two pages of Batwoman swinging across gotham is a sight to behold. The sense of action is well done, the attention to detail on her costume is nice. I love the background as well with the dirigibles and the bat signal playing across the old style buildings of Gotham. Another good example of this is the page where Batman and Batwoman have gathered all the players together. The two flank the bat signal as the large page with three panels inset showing the faces of the new recruits as they are given the spiel of what is about to happen. Simply stunning.

The story is wonderfully as well. One of my favorite parts is the meeting in Batwoman’s place. I like that Batman has come to her for help. He points out what he has discovered and the need for training the other vigilantes of Gotham. Batman has to reassure Batwoman that he does not mean her and admit that he does not have the skills necessary to train a group of people. When Batman removes the cowl to show how much he trusts her, I love that she already knows. I also love how they bring Clayface into the group. He is sitting in a theater watching one of his old movies and lamenting everything he has lost. The two offer him a way to regain some of what he lost. The catch? He just has to do what they say.

This is a story that is definitely in my wheelhouse. I like the idea of following Batwoman as she works with the next generation of heroes in Gotham. I like the idea of Clayface working towards redemption. I appreciate a bat book that takes the disparate characters that populate Batman’s world and puts them into something that resembles a team. I love that the lead in this book is Batwoman and she is being written as smart, aware, and powerful.

Detective Comics issue 934 gets four bear paws out of four from me. Great art and a wonderful story with interesting characters. I am looking forward to reading the next issue!

 

Gemini Cell

GeminiCellCoverGemini Cell is Myke Cole’s return to the world that he created for his Shadow Ops trilogy. In Shadow Ops, Cole introduces us to the US that has adapted to the emergence of those whom are capable to wielding the mighty forces of magic. He creates a world where these people are both valued and feared. The US government has created a special arm of Armed Forces that deals with these people but participation is mandatory. Across these three books, readers learn the lengths that the government will go to control these people and the power that spring from them.

Gemini Cell gives us a glimpse into the process that created the Supernatural Operations Corp.  Readers are introduced to Jim Schweitzer. Jim is a US Navy Seal, husband, and father. An operation to investigate a ship possibly carrying terrorists does not go as planned. During a desperate fight to stay alive, Jim and his team discover a cargo unit filled with preserved corpses that appear to be part of some wild experiment. Not long after this operation, Jim’s home is invaded by skilled operatives and his career and life appear to be at an end.

Where magic is concerned, death is not the end. Jim’s soul is bound to his body with with a spirit from the magical maelstrom in an effort to create a perfect warrior. Jim will now serve his country as an undead operative that is capable of devastation on a grand scale while still being more easily controlled than a nuclear reaction. Jim must learn to use the powers that this magical process has granted him while trying to figure out what has happened to his wife, Sarah, and his son Patrick. complicating this is the spirit that has been bound to him is a bloodthirsty monster that revels in the destruction and pushes the new Jim to new heights of violence. compound this with the horrible missions that Jim is sent on for his country due to the unique nature of his being. Who would believe that one man can take down a whole armed camp, much less those who survive and speak of a monster?

Gemini Cell is a fast paced action thriller. It does an excellent job of blending fantasy elements into a Jason Bourne style story. Jim becomes a one man army capable of incredible levels or carnage and enduring massive amounts of damage. Cole does a good job of making sure that Jim, despite his monstrousness, maintains his humanity. His wife and child provide a lifeline while he struggles just to come to grips with what he has now become. They also are a touchstone for when he begins undertaking missions that are definitely on the black hat side of the tracks.

One of the things that I appreciate about Myke Cole’s take on the this blend of military fantasy is that it has a patriotic tone without being tone deaf. Jim is a Navy Seal that is committed to his craft. He does this to protect his country and his family from those who would destroy the things that he holds dear. Cole allows us to watch Jim as he has to come to terms with what his country has done, both to himself and those that they have unleashed him upon. The idea of unquestioning loyalty is held up and dismantled in a way which does not feel cheap or overly melodramatic. The conclusion feels like an organic awakening for Jim as opposed to a forced revelation which was nice to read.

I also liked the conversations between Jim and the spirit that has been bound to him as part of this process. This spirit presents a dark mirror for Jim to look into. It presents itself as a creature of immense power but this story unravels as Jim continues to question it. Each answer reveals the illusions that this creature has wrapped itself in to deal with its time trapped in the magical maelstrom. But as memory is returned, it becomes apparent that this creature was also a soldier that shared similar beliefs with Jim. Just wonderful.

I give Gemini Cell three bear paws out of four. It is a an exciting and action-packed military fantasy thriller. It hits on all the tropes of this genre without being over-the-top patriotism. Myke cole once again has created characters that I enjoy watching evolve and learn more about. I look forward to getting time to read Javelin Rain, the next book in this series.