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17th January 2017: The Aptly Named

I've never really been into console gaming, especially these last few years, but about a year ago I saw The Last Of Us for PS3 really cheap on ebay so went for it. I figured it would be worth a play through, as it has garnered huge amounts of praise amongst the gaming community. As I only really bought it because it is considered a "must play", and the PS3 is really old now, it's quite likely it is the last PS3 game I will ever buy. It seemed right, considering its name.

It's rare I get into games when first picking them up, and this was no different. I quickly started to stuggle with all the stealth sections, which I've never been a fan of in any game, and only played it for a couple of hours before something else got my attention. It took until a couple of weeks ago for me to remember I needed to finish it.

Though I continued to hate all the sneaking around, I still can't aim for shit using a contoller, and there were a host of little things wrong with it, overall it was a really good experience and I'm glad I played it.

The game is set 20 years after a global outbreak of a fungal infection which turned most people into mindless zombie-like creatures. With the world now in a state of total shit, you play as Joel, a man tasked with the job of escorting a young girl named Ellie across the country, to hopefully find a lab to create a vaccine from her incredible immunity to the infection. Along the way you have to fight through a horde of infected citizens, as well as deal with other people who will either help or hinder. Usually hinder.

Though the story was fairly formulaic, it was the characters that made this enjoyable. It was interesting that even the main characters were not really "good" guys. Cool and badass they may be, but these people were pretty much assholes, even Ellie. I guess that's what would happen after the apocalypse.

As stated, I had a lot of problems with the game. Firstly, the initial load time was insanely long. Not really an issue once you were in it, but still.
The frame rate also tanked a bunch of times, especially when I was near water. That poor old PS3 hardware really wasn't meant for a game like this.
I found out near the end, when I tried to save scum for the first time, that manual saves do not work. The game just reloads right back to the last autosave point. So I have absolutely no idea why there's even a manual save option.
And probably my biggest bugbear was how the game's mechanics, particularly the listening mechanic, would change throughout the game. Sometimes I could listen and hear enemies all around me, but other times it wouldn't let me. There seemed to be invisible sound barriers at many locations that I had to step through in order to hear anything on the other side. Annoying.

Still, mostly a decent game and well worth a play through.

Tangling with the infected

Tangling with the infected

The main characters look ahead

The main characters look ahead

Renee from 24 makes her last stand

Renee from 24 makes her last stand

You are not Spider-Man, Joel

You are not Spider-Man, Joel

Bill gets his chopper out

Bill gets his chopper out

Ellie doesn't like Bill

Ellie doesn't like Bill

Ellie graduates to badass

Ellie graduates to badass

Joel gets a love bite

Joel gets a love bite

That's a lot of infected coming this way

That's a lot of infected coming this way

And the creepy weirdo award goes to... this guy

And the creepy weirdo award goes to... this guy

Lining up the shot

Lining up the shot

Yeah, they all say that

Yeah, they all say that

Save the girl or save the world? What would you decide?

Save the girl or save the world? What would you decide?

Continuing the trend of clearing things up from early last year, I'm now going to do something I should have done a long while ago, and report on some Blood Bowl games. Way back in May and June, after starting a new board game Blood Bowl league, I soon found myself needing some practice with the amazons and lizardmen, which were both new teams to me. I re-installed the computer game, and started a hard difficulty competition with amazons that had 4 divisions each containing 6 teams. I only played the first season, which saw me trying to gain promotion from division 4. I always intended to go back to it, but have not yet found the time or desire.

Though I couldn't remember what happened in the 5 games, luckily I found replays of them all so I could quickly wizz through them and remind myself what happened.

The first game was against elf team High Sea Surfriders. My worst fears came true when their ball carrier dodged through to score on just turn 2. The rest of the half consisted of a big ruck on the half way line, which gave me a numerical advantage for the 2nd half. I took control of the game, with Erika Zeal managing to get through on turn 12 to equalize, and Kallisto Blaze scoring in the last turn for the win.

The 2nd game was against another amazon team, the Tlanxa Javelins. This was a mess from start to finish, with both teams spending the entire match punching each other near the half way line. Twice I managed to push their ball carrier into the crowd, only for the fans to throw the ball deep into my half and put me under pressure. The game ended 0-0 with no chance to score for either team.

My third game was against the much higher rated orc team Da Severed 'Eads. This one allowed me to bring along Zara the Slayer, but I wasn't very hopeful of winning. Turned out to be maybe my luckiest game playing Blood Bowl. Zara was a boss in the early phases, knocking down their troll twice and bullying the black orcs. On turn 3, all the orcs were on my left flank looking to defend my main push, but I switched the play, with Erika handing to Kallisto, who managed to run down the right to score two turns later after wasting as much time as possible. The second half was a massive defensive performance after Zara got KOd right after the kick off. There were multiple orc failed pickup attempts. I noticed several times that they were not using their rerolls during these. Without doubt my main strokes of luck came in turns 8 and 16, as both halves ended with the orcs gaining solid possession of the ball within a turn's reach of the endzone, but I was saved by the whistle both times.

Game 4 saw me up against a Nurgle team Aukrug Eruptors. I remember these being hard to beat when I played with my orcs a few years back, and this one started much the same. One of the beastmen broke through on my right flank with support, and it took a great blitz from Xena Flame to bring him down. She then grabbed the ball, and ran all the way up the right to score on turn 8. 2nd half went my way also, with ball carrier Erika breaking through late on with support from Nikki Heat. On turn 15, one lady handed it to the other and Nikki ran in for the 2-0.

The last game was insane against the Pinkfoot Panthers halfling team. One particular halfling with the block skill called Nellby Hamson was the thorn in my side, seriously injuring Nikki in turn 2, then badly hurting Artemis Flash and Gaia Light on turns 3 & 4 respectively. The little git had me flustered, but I managed to score with Erika on turn 5. A pitch invasion followed, then an attempted throw team mate by one of their treemen ended with the death of one of the halflings. In the 2nd half I concentrated on killing Hamson, but could only badly hurt him after several turns of trying. Though I'd suffered at the beginning, the rest of the casualties went in my favour and they ended with very few players on the pitch. My 2nd TD came in turn 12 for Korina Jet, after she caught an accurate long pass from Erika. The game ended with me retiring Nikki and hiring a new Nikki.

So season 1 ended with a comfortable league win. Hopefully this little update will make me carry on that competition, as it's nice to win with amazons, which I can't seem to do in the board game.

The first half grind against the elves commences

The first half grind against the elves commences

My first amazon touchdown

My first amazon touchdown

A lot of angry women looking to kick the crap out of each other

A lot of angry women looking to kick the crap out of each other

Zara deals with a troll

Zara deals with a troll

The first half against the orcs goes better than expected

The first half against the orcs goes better than expected

Their beast gets hit by a rock

Their beast gets hit by a rock

Xena clatters their ball carrier

Xena clatters their ball carrier

Hamson fractures Nikki's skull...

Hamson fractures Nikki's skull...

...but I soon get payback

...but I soon get payback

28th November 2016: Brothers & Transistors: A Tale Of Two Games

2016 has been a bit of a slow year for completing games, so recently I sat down to rush through two shorter games from a couple of years back that have quite a good reputation out there on the t'interwebs.

Up first was Transistor, a game by the same people who made Bastion. I could certainly feel a bit of a Bastion-like influence in this, but for the most part it was a very different game, especially the combat.
Battles can be fought in real time, or you can pause and plan out your attacks using something called Turn(). Using Turn() lets all your planned actions activate before the enemy can react, but then puts your skills on a cooldown until Turn() is ready to go again, leaving you very open to attack. I struggled quite a lot to get used to either form of combat, until later in the game when I had unlocked a nice selection of functions which allowed me to use Turn() to plan out some very powerful combos. Though I had struggled with the earlier bosses, by the time of the end boss fight I was so ready that I smacked him around with barely a scratch in return.

The story was a weird one. A lot of the lore was hidden in text files and messages that get unlocked as the game progresses, and as I was blitzing through the game I didn't care for any of that, and am not really sure about many things. The general gist was that some bad guys called the Camerata (who may have actually been good guys?) were trying to use a special sword called the Transistor to help rebuild the city, but lost control of it, and it ended up spreading something called The Process: machine-like things that are now taking over the city and killing everyone they can find.

You play as Red, a famous singer who has been rendered mute, I assume psychologically, after an attack on her life instead claimed that of her lover, whose essence was then sucked into the Transistor. Red now has control of the Transistor, from which her lover still speaks to her, and together they set out to try and destroy the Camerata and The Process.
Yes, as I said, it's a weird one.

I had quite a few issues with the game to be honest. Firstly, I couldn't get it running smoothly. Even forcing vsync on in the nvidia control panel, or trying some weird command line option I found online, couldn't stop this from stuttering around all over the place. Made me feel a bit sick.
Real time combat was pretty much unplayable for me. Red's abilities are not supposed to have a cooldown in this mode, to make it a viable option in addition to the Turn() system. However, all the attacks I tried had massive wind-up times, or a good second or two afterwards where Red wouldn't do anything, and I kept getting hit by return fire.
Very often during Turn(), the game would indicate I could do enough damage to kill an enemy, but when I unpaused and unleashed the planned combo, the enemy would be left with quite a lot of health left. Either I was missing something, or there was some strange shit going on there.
Using the jaunt function was also frustrating. This is like a dash or blink move, but sometimes it would only jump to maximum distance while other times it would let me dash a shorter distance. Sometimes it would let me dash over walls, and sometimes it wouldn't. It was a pain.

I can't really write about this game without talking about its music, especially after Bastion's was so good. Unfortunately, while it suits the game and is perfectly adequate, I just didn't find it as "cool" sounding as Bastion's music. While I would be quite happy to listen to any of Bastion's songs, there are only a couple of the lyrical pieces from this one that I have imported into my library.

Red poster

Red poster

Red thinks she's She-Ra

Red thinks she's She-Ra

Planning to take out the Jerk

Planning to take out the Jerk

The Camerata

The Camerata

There's always time for pizza

There's always time for pizza

The fight against The Spine was the hardest one

The fight against The Spine was the hardest one

Good riddance

Good riddance

WTF is going on right now?

WTF is going on right now?

Spanking the end boss good and proper

Spanking the end boss good and proper

Next up was Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons. This was an interesting little platformy-puzzle-thing where you control two brothers at the same time, one with the left stick and one with the right. I was surprisingly ok with this, and could control them both simultaneously for the most part, as long as I kept the left-stick brother on the left side of the screen and right-stick brother to the right. If they ever got mixed up for any reason then my brain would soon get all muddled and I'd have those kids running in completely the wrong directions.

The plot is simple, and follows the brothers as they set out to retrieve a cure for their dying father, after losing their mother before the start of the game. Along the way they meet all kinds of weird and wonderful characters who will either try and help them or hinder them.
It seems to be known mostly for being an emotional narrative-driven game, and I've seen reviewers online gush about the effect it had on them. Call me cold or soulless, but I didn't get that much of a response from playing it at all. I guess the biggest reason for that was the length of the game. As it only lasts about 3-4 hours, there's not really much of a chance to get invested in the characters at all, especially as they don't even speak (or at least, speak in a language we can understand).
The end of the game also annoyed the hell out of me. For a start, the main villain, who up to that point had already displayed incredible feats of strength and agility, gets absolutely destroyed by two little children in very quick fashion. Just wouldn't happen. And to top it off, the writers of the game came down with a bout of sheer Lord Of The Rings-itus when a weird owl/cat creature shows up out of nowhere to save the day and fly the cure all the way back to the starting location so that the father can get it. I just didn't understand how that creature even knew where the kids were to go and help. Had me groaning with disappointment to be honest.

Narrative issues aside, it was a perfectly fine game to play through, barring a couple of little irritations. Mostly, I hated how the camera kept rotating automatically all the time. I dearly wished it would just stay pointing forward. Also, it wasn't always clear when I had to keep hold of the interact buttons or when I could let go of them. Quite often, a cutscene would start as I interacted with something. Sometimes, this cutscene would play even if I let go of the button, but other times it would cancel the cutscene and I'd have to start it again. A minor quibble, but a quibble nonetheless.
Overall though, definitely worth a playthrough, but like Transistor, it's highly unlikely I'll ever play it again.

Troll dude throws them kids off his front lawn

Troll dude throws them kids off his front lawn

To me. To you. To me.

To me. To you. To me.

WTF

WTF

The brothers have a goat race

The brothers have a goat race

Someone's been playing Trine

Someone's been playing Trine

I wanna go for a ride on that!

I wanna go for a ride on that!

Not one for the arachnophobes

Not one for the arachnophobes

These two games are not the only two I've played since the last update. Though I wasn't expecting to go straight into Witcher 3, that's exactly what I did. Sadly the story failed to grip me and make me keep going back to it, so I haven't got very far yet, and it's been a good few weeks since I last played it. I want to get back to it again soon and hopefully get addicted.

I was incredibly happy to find its controls had none of Witcher 2's problems, and even though it's a newer game, the framerate and performance seem better than its predecessor. Good stuff in that regard.

Roach tries to climb the fence

Roach tries to climb the fence

I find her interesting because she's a client and she sleeps above her covers. Four feet above her covers.

I find her interesting because she's a client and she sleeps above her covers. Four feet above her covers.

Griffin proving a problem

Griffin proving a problem

Oh Geralt you naughty boy

Oh Geralt you naughty boy

This place seems inviting

This place seems inviting

Boxing a bear

Boxing a bear

One slice or two?

One slice or two?

Come on then, Wild Hunt scum!

Come on then, Wild Hunt scum!

A while back I also started playing the chaotic mental insanity that is Broforce with Scoob. This old-school-looking game fills the screen with bullets and explosions as you try and reach the end of each level, playing as characters that are not-so-subtly based on action heroes from movies and TV.
It's actually quite hard, mostly because it can be hard to tell what's going on with all the fireworks and destruction on screen. We'll get back to this at some point, and hopefully get through it all. But don't hold your breath.

Scoob brings the pain

Scoob brings the pain

Dropping off some packages

Dropping off some packages

Let's hope there's some dude with a sword I can shoot

Let's hope there's some dude with a sword I can shoot

15th November 2016: A Little Momentum

So a few more things have happened in the land of the tabletop. Firstly, I managed to finish updating the Blood Bowl human team, and the big guys for the chaos and human teams. Then I based them along with the dark elf team, so a full 6 teams are now complete.

The Blood Bowl season 6 document has also been updated with the games we've played this year. We're nearly half way through the 6-team league we've been running, and it's not gone too well for me so far. At the start of the league me and Scoob decided to use teams we wouldn't normally use, with him taking up the wood elves, while I started with lizardmen for the first time ever. Joining us for this league has been new player Gareth, who put together a new team of his trusty orcs.
The other three "filler" teams in the league are my dwarf, human and amazon teams. The amazons are another brand new team, who I've ended up using in each of their games so far. In my 5 games with these two new teams, I've lost 3 and drawn 2, and it doesn't look like its going to get any better, as the other teams are all improving.
The only game I've won yet is when I got to use the dwarves. For the lizardmen I made a massive mistake going for the extra re-roll rather than filling up on saurus players, and I've paid for that lack of strength, as I haven't managed to get through a game without at least one saurus player getting seriously injured. While I don't think I made any mistakes with the amazon starting lineup, I find them very difficult to use. They have no offensive skill at all. It's all well and good having dodge, but that doesn't help you block and put down the enemy, and neither does their lack of strength. While dodge can make them harder to knock down, their armour is useless when they do go down. In just three games they've had 15 casualties against them, and are without doubt the most useless team I've ever used in over 20 years of playing the game. Shame.
I seriously can't wait for this league to be over, so I can get back to my beloved Stompers and Rotting Chimps, and start bashing my way to victory again. After all, I used to have a fairly good record at Blood Bowl. Not any more...

Blood Bowl Season 6 Document

Painting big guys and humies

Painting big guys and humies

A lot of time these last few weeks has been spent working on my own Super Dungeon Explore rules. I managed to get the rules to a place where I could print them off and start having some real playtests with them, which has thrown up more interesting challenges in terms of balance and how I want the game to play.
I also went a bit mad and bought loads more stuff for it, after managing to find a great many things quite cheap online. These have included the old Caverns Of Roxor expansion, which was for the very first edition of S.D.E., as well as Von Drakk Manor and the Claws Of The Wyrm warband. I've even created and printed some treasure cards for the Roxor boss, as those old cards don't fit with the new ones.

I'm making some progress, but I'd need a very strong pair of binoculars to see the end of the road for this little task...

Buying more S.D.E. stuff

Buying more S.D.E. stuff

Some playtest rules appear

Some playtest rules appear

7th October 2016: General Tabletop Update

Despite its lack of tabletop activity on this blog, this has actually been one the biggest gaming years of my life so far. However, rather than the wargames we have traditionally played in the past, this year's gaming has all been of the board game variety.

It was way back at the start of the year when this sudden urge to play a bunch of games kicked in, and since then we've had a whole bunch of games nights during which we have tried a whole bunch of games.

Up first was Pandemic, a co-op game where you have to save the world from a host of diseases. We really like this one, but as it only really works for 3-4 players we don't get to play it often, as there are too many of us on games nights. I've had a few quick looks at writing a modified rule set that allows for lots of players, but as yet nothing has clicked into place.

After that we tried two games that I got interested in after watching the Co-Optional Lounge, being Epic Spell Wars and Secret Hitler. Epic Spell Wars didn't really grab the attention of anyone in our group, but Secret Hitler has been a staple game pretty much all year. There's just something fun (and wrong) about trying to figure out who the fascists and their leader are, so they can be shot as soon as possible.

I bought Super Dungeon Explore back in January when it was on sale at Amazon for the rediculously low price of £25. I was looking forward to trying a dungeon crawler after Warhammer Quest didn't stick. Though it gets really good reviews, and I really like the visual style of it, we haven't played it after the first attempt. The game took way too long, and as it only supports a few players it's been really hard to fit it in anywhere. I still have high hopes for this game, but it all depends on if I can get some of my own rules working. If so, I want to grab the next version of the game, to give us loads more heroes to choose from.

A strange game called Nuns On The Run was the next one I bought. This game's concept is really interesting, but the execution of it doesn't quite work. It really needs everyone to know what they are doing and to pay full attention, as the hidden movement of the game can make it awkward to help players who aren't sure what they're doing. The game board itself is also really dark, prompting me to work on a digital version of the board, which you can preview below. I'm hoping to make it so that you can click on a location and it shows all the other locations that are in line of sight. My ultimate dream would be to completely remake the game digitally, so that we could play it using laptops, tablets or phones, but I don't think I quite have that skill.

One of our favourite games has been the monster-bashing mayhem that is King Of New York. This supports 6 players (though we've poked at it so that we can play with 8), and involves players picking a giant monster with which to stomp around New York and smack the other monsters in the face.

We've tried a few other games for lots of players, even mixing two versions of Cluedo together so we could play with 10 players, which was crazy. The most recent game we've played is a really old one called Buck Rogers: Battle For The 25th Century, which is kind-of a mix of a board game and a wargame. It's got some good ideas, but it certainly has the feel of an old game. We have not yet tried the advanced rules though, which might spice it up a bit.

Epic Spell Wars shenanigans

Epic Spell Wars shenanigans

Playtesting new S.D.E. rules

Playtesting new S.D.E. rules

Digital board for Nuns On The Run

Digital board for Nuns On The Run

Kings Of New York mayhem

Kings Of New York mayhem

10-player Cluedo

10-player Cluedo

Trying to take over the Solar System in Buck Rogers

Trying to take over the Solar System in Buck Rogers

A few things have also happened concerning our more traditional wargames. I stopped painting my Nids after the "Six-Limbed Freaks" update last year, which I really need to get back to. But I did almost finish the Carnifex below before calling it quits. In recent months I've been convinced to pick up the brush once more, as in March we started playing Blood Bowl again. Though our last game was in June, I've somehow managed to continue my sporadic efforts, and I finally finished my Dark Elf team yesterday. Next plans are to update the humans, paint their ogre, then paint the Chaos minotaur. That will give me 6 fully painted teams. Seeing as I started playing Blood Bowl in 1994, this means my other 4 teams should be fully painted by some time in 2030...

Must be a Man Utd fan, poor thing

Must be a Man Utd fan, poor thing

Trying to get some wicked ladies ready for action

Trying to get some wicked ladies ready for action

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