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Curmudgeon Corner

on Tuesday, March 17 2009 and posted in Features
Mike West is here to share with you his first column, on coming to terms with life as a 40 year old gamer!


My name’s Mike, and I’m a curmudgeon….but I am also a gamer.  For some reason, these two things seem to go well together.

For my fearless leader, the owner of this site, I shall endeavor to bring my brand of enlightenment to the gaming masses on a bi-weekly basis.  I will review products, or rant endlessly on loves/hates that pervade our small universe hoping to expand it’s ever snubbed horizons.  I shall wax poetic, curse incessantly (I am sure to be edited) and generally make a nuisance of myself.

This week, as it is a new column, and a brave new world, I am going to just go down a brief run of my 4 favorite board-games (why four? Because I felt like it!), the why’s and wherefores as to my preference and then close with a wee little rant!

My favorite board games: why you should love them and NOT point out your ninny-ness if you don’t.

#1:  Arkham Horror.  ***** stars.
Fantasy Flight games.  $60 approximately (store pricing/online makes it vary).
FF games has just taken off over the last couple years, and really marked themselves as THE company to go to for a good board game.  This game is old-school.  It has punch out pieces, little cardboard characters with plastic stands, and basic dice.  You would figure that for $50+ that would upset me, and normally you’d be right.  In this case, it is worth every dime.  Solid co-operative game play with no backstabbing is hard to manage without a GM of some sort, but FF managed to create a game engine in a board-game that just makes it take off.  It really does run itself (you can play solo in this one, and it works well).  The art, pieces and board are top notch quality and resilient. 
In addition, it is set in the Lovecraftian horror universe.  If you have never challenged a Deep One, confronted a cultist horde, or risked your very sanity, you must play this game!
The only down side is the time frame.  This game can take a looong time, so be prepared and make sure everyone showered…

#2: Munchkin Quest. **** stars.
Steve Jackson Games.  $50 approximately.
SJ games have focused primarily on the non-collectible card game market for the most part, and really knocked the ball out of the park with Munchkin.  Stab your buddies, steal their treasure, and cheat the spirit of every RPG ever produced, while making fun of all stereoptypical game goobs everywhere!  How can it get better?  Make it into a board-game that won’t stop!  The game changes every time, with a growing board and infinitely challenging rooms and monsters.  They took my favorite SJ card-game and made it 3D with attitude.  And the peasants rejoiced!  Only 4 players unless you buy the expansion hurts this game both in terms of cost and fun, but it is still worth it.

#3: Formula D. **** stars.
Asmodi Games.  $60 approximate.
I played this game when it first came out under Euro Games, and fell in love.  Why does this matter?  Because I hate racing….a lot…..a whole lot.  Sorry Nascar (etc) fans, I do.  Nothing challenges the mind more than watching someone drive fast in an oval…no, wait, everything does.  But dammit all if this game does NOT rock.  You can draft, you can hit the wall, you can bump each other.  It’s a game of resource management, speed, little bitty cars and healthy attitude.  It can also be played quickly, with single lap races as an option.  You can play with teams, individuals controlling multiple cars or different people on the same team, or you can play every man for himself.  It even lends itself easily to scoring based league play to track your luck!  No real violence and lots of interesting dice (a different die for every gear from 1-6) make this game 100% family friendly too!

#4 Risk Godstorm. *** stars.
Avalon Hill. $40 approximate.
Another Risk variant you say?  Why bother you say?  I have one word for you, Atlantis…as in, you can sink it.  All the good elements of Risk, a newer board with more challenges than just turtling in Australia, and you can sink Atlantis (oh, and did I mention God-Wars and plagues???). 
It is a Risk variant, and does suffer some of those issues (thus the *** star rating) but damn it’s just fun.  Also like all Risk games, it runs the risk (heh) of running too long.

These games are items I highly recommend, and give you the reader insight into my take on board games at large.  Don’t worry, I have least faves, and will share those over time. 

And now for my rant, and it WILL be short.

Mega-Con.  For those of you who do not know, that is the Central Florida comic convention.  THE convention.  There are no others.  Okay, there are but they suck (note that this is the opinion of this writer, and not the site or it’s owners).  I have been here in Fla for 11 years, and watched this wonderful event slowly go down to shite…cause it sure ain’t Scottish. 
The artist alley was decent at best, but except for the Battlestar Galactica stars, no one else in the star gallery was really worth the wait or entry.  Stores were either doing nothing for the con over their own aggrandizement, or were dwarfed by the Wal-Mart-esque sponsors who were doing the same.  But good lord, what happened to the GAMES man?  Did everyone just cease to care?

The total game involvement in the entire con was a sad and pathetic line of tables against one back wall where people had brought their favorite board-games/old-school miniatures games (blood bowl anyone?) and set up hoping to have fun.  At least these guys tried, and were there.  The Con on the other hand made it look like they were the red headed step children of the red headed step children.

Did the con promote them?  I don’t think so.  I didn’t get a feel for that prior to the con, from their flyers or their website, and the few commercials I saw on local TV only promoted the sponsors and BSG guys/gals. 
What they DID do was allow tv’s to be set up near artist alley that appeared to have video gaming going on.  This supports the comic and game industry how?  This was near some of the busiest areas why? 

And finally, please can we stop having entire tables of hentai that have to be covered with saran wrap to protect the kiddies from the pictures on the back?  This shit does NOT support the industry, and in fact perpetuates stereotypes that are both unhealthy and incorrect.
Okay, so not as short as I expected…rant off.

Thank you for letting me waste your time!  I’ll be back in two weeks to do so again.

(quote for the day)
“life clocks are a lie!  Carousel is a lie!  THERE IS NO RENEWAL!”


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