Category: Games

Game review: Patchwork

Yes, there is a board game that’s essentially about making a patchwork quilt. My friends J and Kasi bought this game recently, and when J pointed out that they had a game about making quilts, I had to play it.

The box for the board game Patchwork, with game pieces surrounding the box.

In Patchwork, two players compete to make the most complete (and highest-scoring) quilt they can on a 9×9 game board. Gameplay is pretty simple — players move tokens along a board (called the “time track”) to determine whose turn it is, and as players move along the board they can collect extra buttons or small patches to help fill in empty spots on their board. Each space on the board represents a unit of time, and each of the patches has a time listed on them, indicating how many spaces you’ll be moving along the board.  (After all, quilting does take time!)

Around the time track is the collection of quilt patches you can choose from. During each turn, players have the option to purchase a quilt patch or earn extra buttons by moving to one spot ahead of your opponent.  You’re limited in which quilt patches you can buy, however: a marker works its way clockwise around the circle of patches, and you can only choose from the three patches in front of the marker. This is where sometimes moving ahead of your opponent can come in handy, if there aren’t any patches you can afford or any patches that fit on your board — you can simply choose to earn extra buttons, one per spot you end up moving along the board.

The game Patchwork set up and ready for play, with a square board that keeps track of player turns and differently shaped pieces of various colors representing quilt patches surrounding the board.
The game, set up and ready to play!

The buttons that players collect are really important.  Not only are they the game’s currency, but they also help determine who wins at the end of the game: whoever has the most buttons at the end of the game wins.

Game pieces from Patchwork, each displaying a button cost and a "time" cost. One patch has three buttons on it.
The patches that have buttons on them really help you out in this game.

As you can see, some patches have buttons on them – and those help you out as you move around the time track.  If you move past a button on the time track, you earn a button for every button that’s on your quilt.  The bigger your quilt gets, the more buttons you can earn at a time. (At one point, I think I was earning 15 buttons every time I hopped over a button on the time track — my quilt was very decorated!)

Patchwork game board with a couple of pieces on it, arranged to make a small, irregularly-shaped quilt.
My patchwork quilt, early on in the game. I didn’t end up winning – I had too many blank spaces at the end, boo.

When both players get to the end of the time track, that’s when you figure out who the winner is.  First, you count up how many buttons you’ve earned, and then subtract the amount of blank spaces on the board from the amount of buttons you’ve earned.  Whoever has the highest point count after that is the winner!  I didn’t win yesterday’s game, but I certainly had fun playing and will definitely be picking this game up for my collection.

Patchwork on Amazon

Finally got a Kickstarter I’ve been waiting for!

I think I got a little burned out on everything after Gen Con – hence the lack of a post last week.  Don’t get me wrong, I tried to get the last of my Gen Con reports put together, and there’s a start to it in the pile of half-finished blog posts I’m accumulating, but I just couldn’t nudge myself towards getting it done.  I’ll try to finish it soon, though, as there are some pretty cool vendors and artists I want to share with you all that I discovered at Gen Con.

So that this week’s blog post isn’t all just me being down on myself for not posting last week, I’m going to talk about a Kickstarter whose rewards I’ve been eagerly awaiting for a little while now.  Those rewards showed up on my doorstep the other day, and I can’t help but share them with you all, because they’re so beautiful!

Yep, that’s right – the Name of the Wind Art Deck Kickstarter started shipping last month, and I finally got my goodies.  They were definitely worth the wait, that’s for sure.

Now, this isn’t the first deck of cards that’s had artwork from Name of the Wind on them – a deck was released a few years ago (also the product of a Kickstarter, if I remember right), with artwork by Shane Tyree depicting the characters we all know and love. I’ve got the Shane Tyree deck as well as the new ones with art by Echo Chernik, and it’s really interesting to see how each artist envisioned the characters.

From left to right: Auri, Denna, and Kote, with Shane Tyree’s art on top and Echo Chernik’s art on bottom.

The coin that I got as part of the rewards is beautiful – and pretty hefty, too!  I’d be afraid to flip it and accidentally dent a table with it when it lands, haha.

The prints are beautiful, too – I can’t wait to get them framed.  I’ve been especially excited about them, since I love Echo’s work, and it was really exciting to get to meet her at Gen Con.  All in all, I’m really happy with the quality of everything – the cards feel great in your hand, and the artwork is absolutely wonderful.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with four decks of Name of the Wind playing cards. 😛

Gen Con 2018 Report: the LARPs

This post is part of my Gen Con 2018 Report series – you can find the whole collection here!

As I mentioned briefly in some of my daily Gen Con posts, I took part in two different LARPs this year at Gen Con, in very different roles.  I’ve never actually LARPed at Gen Con before, so being involved in two different games might have been a little ambitious, but in retrospect, I had a heck of a lot of fun.  Both games I was involved in were put on by Phoenix Fire LARP, a group that my dear friends J and Kasi run with some of their friends. Since convention halls don’t really lend themselves well to boffer LARPs (or, LARPs that make use of foam weapons for attacking others), J developed the FIRE System, which uses a deck of playing cards to determine damage dealt to characters, help add an element of chance to certain actions, and to help with determining initiative for the players.  It’s a really neat system that’s pretty quick to learn.

While both games made use of the FIRE System, they were about as different as things can get – and I had completely different experiences in both games, what with running one and participating in another.  Read on to learn more about Return to Paragon City and Showdown in Sacramento!

Return to Paragon City

The three main storytellers from Return to Paragon City – Daniel, Kasi, and myself.

Return to Paragon City was the game I helped run – it’s based on the beloved MMO City of Heroes, which I didn’t get to play for long before they shut the game down back in 2012.  The game was run as a hybrid tabletop/live action game, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. However, to be honest, when I first volunteered to help run Paragon City, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t expect I’d be running part of the game by myself, but that’s what ended up happening. And given that it was my first experience running any sort of game, I was anxious as heck about it. I’ve played in tabletop games for years, and I’ve got a year and a half of LARPing experience under my belt, but running a game?  Telling a story and keeping track of where everyone is in location to the bad guys and keeping track of the bad guys’ health ended up being a really overwhelming prospect for me.  I was so worried I’d mess something up, and then freak out about messing things up, and it’d all spiral out of control.  Each playtest we did helped me feel a little better about things, but not much.  I ended up showing up to the game in the middle of a massive anxiety attack. Oh, brain.  Why do you do this to me?

Some of the fine superheroes from my table at Return to Paragon City.

Anyhow, I told J that my brain was conspiring against me and that I had no idea how I’d be able to run my section of game, so we tag-teamed my section of the event – I’d do the storytelling, while J handled the combat parts.  That combination worked out well – during combat I focused on keeping track of where people were on the map and how many hit points the bad guys had, while J handled the actual logistics.  And our group had loads of fun!  We had some great superheroes in our group, including Professor Photon, Cameraman (who had a camera prop and involved it in all of his attacks), and The Spicy Taco (whose attacks were, of course, taco-themed).

All in all, I learned a lot – and learned that maybe I need training wheels, so to speak, for a little bit longer when it comes to running a LARP.

Showdown in Sacramento

Showdown in Sacramento was an entirely different experience.  In fact, the only thing Showdown and Paragon City had in common was the FIRE System – everything else was incredibly different.  Instead of being set in a fictitious city full of superheroes, Showdown is set in Sacramento during the gold rush era, and is full of supernatural beings- mages, werewolves, vampires, and fey (in addition to regular plain old humans).  In last year’s game, an event happened that caused all the supernatural beings to glow with a specific colored aura around them, based on the type of supernatural being they were.  This made things a little… interesting for this year’s game, especially when it came to the political elements.

I like how J and Kasi handled character creation, although I know it resulted in an immense amount of work on their end.  Instead of creating our own characters, we were each assigned a character and given a fair bit of backstory for them as a starting point for this year’s game.  I ended up playing Lucina Finch, a relative newcomer to Sacramento who’d recently purchased a mine and was planning on using her abilities as a mage to construct machines that would work in the mines, to lessen the potential harm to humans.  Having the character information to start from made things much easier for me, especially since I was new to the game – once I got into character and started interacting with others, I had a great time.

Lucina Finch with J (who played many roles during the game, haha).  And yes, that’s the mole from my Marco costume earlier in the day – I’ll have to remember to add that for next year’s costume, haha.

Lucina partnered up with two other mages (Isadora and Adelia) to work on making more machines to work in the mines, which was one of Lucina’s main goals for the game.  There was also a lot of mining (Lucina had to pay Adelia for the rights to her gold-detecting machine somehow!), a marriage market where Lucina got matched up with a friendly werewolf named Thomas, a number of fights with thugs attempting to raid the mines (Thomas protected Lucina from one such attack by transforming into a werewolf, which Lucina thought was pretty awesome), and even voting on political issues that would affect the supernaturals living in Sacramento both immediately and in the years to come.  And with the help of a couple of others, the lady mages found out the source of the auras that were affecting the supernatural folk of Sacramento!

 

The cast of Showdown in Sacramento!

I had a heck of a lot of fun in Showdown, and I’m really glad I decided to jump in and play this year.  Granted, doing two 6-hour LARPs over the course of two days was exhausting, but I really enjoyed it.

 

Gen Con 2018: The Report

Well, Gen Con 2018 is all done – which I’m rather bummed about, I had an absolutely wonderful time this year!  Thanks to staying in a hotel in Indy, I actually had the energy to post something little each day of the convention, but I’ve got a heck of a lot more to ramble about – so here goes! To keep this one post from getting too ridiculously long, I’ve split out the long and rambly parts into their own posts:

My experience this year was pretty good in general – I kept up on what was going on with the Fans of Gen Con group on Facebook, which was full of good information.  From where to find certain games to how long the line for Will Call was, the folks in Fans of Gen Con posted about it all – and it helped me feel a little more connected to the convention in general.  I’m hoping I can actually make it to their pre-Gen Con event next year, the Stink, so I can meet more of the great folks in that group.

Speaking of Will Call – what the heck was up with Will Call this year?  The lines were insane, from what I heard – this year I ended up getting my press badge with my friend Rachel (of The Five(ish) Fangirls Podcast) on Wednesday, and then hopping into the Will Call line – which stretched almost entirely across the convention center.  It moved pretty quickly, though – Ross, Rachel, and I were only in line for a half hour.  However, Thursday was an entirely different story.

This photo was taken by someone in the Fans of Gen Con group on Facebook, at around noon on Thursday.  That was the end of the line – snaking almost to Lucas Oil Stadium.

Apparently the line was really, really bad on Thursday – so much for Will Call being such a well-kept secret!  I think Ross and I are going to plan on getting my press badge on Wednesday of Gen Con from now on, so we don’t feel so rushed trying to get things taken care of early Thursday morning (and so we avoid the potential horrors of the lengthy Will Call lines). 

I don’t know about everyone else, but it felt like some parts of Gen Con were ridiculously packed compared to last year.  It felt almost impossible to navigate the Block Party, where all the food trucks were congregated, during meal times (and forget about finding a place to sit!) – and the dealer hall was insane on Sunday.  I get easily overwhelmed when there are too many people somewhere, and while most of the time I was fine, there were some spots where I just got so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people crammed into a small area.  Unfortunately, I have no idea how to alleviate this outside of finding a new place to do Gen Con or expanding further into the surrounding hotels – it’s just something I guess I’m gonna have to deal with.

I will say, watching the crowds enter the dealers hall on Thursday morning was fascinating.  I actually recorded the tail end of the opening ceremonies for Gen Con this year, and at about 4 and a half minutes into the video, you can see the crowd start pouring into the hall (and hear my silly commentary on it, too).

One of the things I love about Gen Con is the fact that I can run into friends from pretty much every part of my life here – over the course of the convention, I ran into a bunch of folks from Kishar, friends from work, my wonderful mom-in-law and brother-in-law, and even folks from SIGUCCS (a professional organization I’m a member of).  It’s like one big geeky party that all your friends are at, and it’s fantastic. I always love running into friends and family at Gen Con.

Star, Marco, and Steve from Blues Clues! (Or, Ross, myself, and Ross’s brother Damion.)

Overall, I had a great time – I got to eat tasty food from the food trucks (including some pierogies from Pierogi Love, and a rainbow cupcake covered in glitter called “The Mike Pence”, haha), I got to wear a Sailor Moon costume I’d only ever dreamed about wearing before, I got to play in some awesome games, and I spent a ridiculous amount of money in the dealers hall (I bought a Utilikilt this year!).  All in all, this was a great year, and I’m looking forward to next year’s Gen Con!  Here’s a little taste of Gen Con 2018, in photo form.

Keep an eye out for the more specific Gen Con Reports! 🙂  And if you want to listen to a more detailed (and much more tired) report about Gen Con, I guest-starred on the most recent episode of The Five(ish) Fangirls Podcast, where Rachel and I talk about our Gen Con experience!  

Gen Con 2018: it’s almost here

I apologize for the lack of a post last week and the week before — I’ve been swamped with Gen Con prep.  And oh, there’s a lot of it this year.

For example: did you folks know I’m helping run a LARP this year?  Return to Paragon City (based on the old MMORPG City of Heroes) is going to be my first stab at running a simple LARP, and I’m really excited for it (and more than a little anxious, I’m not going to lie).  It’s been awesome, revisiting the world of City of Heroes as my friends and I put together the story for Return to Paragon City.  I really hope it goes well!

In addition to helping run Return to Paragon City, I’m also going to play in a LARP too – Showdown in Sacramento!  Which actually sold out on the first day event registration was open, which was awesome and slightly frustrating, haha.  Thankfully, the friends running Showdown are the same friends running Paragon City with me, so even if Gen Con hadn’t increased the amount of available tickets, they’d have found a way for Ross and I to get in there and play (probably with a lot of generic event tickets, hah.)

I also spent most of last weekend making Ross the last piece he needed for his Star Butterfly costume – a star purse that came out far better than I expected it would.  And yes, I lined it with My Little Pony fabric.  Would you expect anything different from me? 😉

On the left is the purse in progress, and on the left is the finished product! He looks a little silly, but that’s kind of the point, I think. 🙂

I’ve only got two days of officially planned costumes this year, Marco Diaz from Star vs. The Forces of Evil and Sailor Moon. I’m excited to be Marco Diaz (and even more excited to see Ross in his Star Butterfly costume!), and every time I think of my Sailor Moon costume I get ridiculously flaily. (As I’m sure you’ve all noticed by now.)  Depending on how I feel on Sunday, I might throw on my “stealth dress” and wander around Gen Con as my Kishar character, Ëlinyr. Or I might wear my Sailor Moon wig and my Crafty Nerd t-shirt!  Who knows.

For those of you who are going to Gen Con, say hi if you see me!  Following is a breakdown of what costumes Ross and I are planning to wear on what days (when we’re not LARPing), so you know what to look for.

Day Beth’s costume Ross’s costume
Thursday Sailor Meta Moon
(or, Usagi in a Sailor Moon dress)
Ravenclaw student
Friday Marco Diaz Star Butterfly
Saturday Sailor Moon Star Butterfly
Sunday maybe Ëlinyr?  maybe Usagi? exhausted congoer?

And for those of you who can’t make it, don’t worry!  I’ll be posting here and on Twitter daily while I’m at Gen Con, in addition to my usual Gen Con wrap-up posts after the convention.  I’m so ready for this, folks.  SO READY.

Here’s hoping I see some of you awesome folks at Gen Con!

 

Gen Con 50: the best Gen Con ever

This is going to be the first of a bunch of posts about Gen Con 50, which has turned out to be the BEST Gen Con I’ve ever been to. I’ve done so much and seen so many cool things over the past few days – and it’s not all going to fit into one post, so I’m going to do a handful of them – one on the overall experience, one on events, one on awesome experiences in the Dealers Hall, and one entirely devoted to cosplay!

The first thing I noticed about Gen Con, mostly because it was the first place I went, was the fact that Will Call was EMPTY.

I think this was honestly the busiest I saw Will Call during the entire convention.

I’m guessing it was probably due to no on-site ticket sales because Gen Con was sold out for the first time in Gen Con history, but still, it was eerie to see Will Call so quiet! As always, though, everything went smoothly – I got my press badge quickly, got event tickets even more quickly, and enjoyed all my time at the convention. It was fantastic, I swear.

The ever-fantastic Cardhalla.

And what was really awesome was the fact that Gen Con took over Lucas Oil Stadium – the home of the Indianapolis Colts!

I swear, seeing Gen Con stuff on the Jumbotron got me all super excited!

I think spreading things out over three or four hotels, the Indy Convention Center, and Lucas Oil Stadium really helped spread out the crowds.  My introvert self really appreciated it. The game lending library was right there on the field at Lucas Oil, as well as a mini museum documenting the history of Gen Con – which was fascinating.

I went to awesome events, had lots of compliments on my costumes, saw SO MANY other awesome costumes, and got to spend lots of time with friends.

Ross and I, and our friends J and Kasi! 😀

I also got to help set up a LARP, got to listen to one of my favorite authors ramble about things and read his two “children’s” books, and ate tasty food from all sorts of places – food trucks, restaurants, and more.

I always love seeing Granite City’s Gen Con menu.

I used to say Gen Con 2013 was the best Gen Con, but I think this one trumps it. By a lot.  So many fantastic things happened – again, I can’t just cover it all in one post, so tomorrow I’ll share my experiences in the events I went to!  After that, it’ll be fun from the Dealers Hall, and then the final Gen Con post will be on the epic cosplay!  (And there may be an entire post dedicated to Pat Rothfuss, too.)

Another tiny little review: Loot Letter

Anyone remember the tiny little review I did ages ago for a tiny game called Love Letter?

Well, apparently that tiny little game has spawned a tiny little parody. World, meet Munchkin: Loot Letter.

You know it’s going to be silly if it’s in the realm of Munchkin.

A quick refresher: in Love Letter, your goal is to get your love letter to the princess. You’ve got a small deck of cards which are numbered, and there are various amounts of those numbered cards – there are far more of those lower number cards than higher number cards, and there’s only one 8 – the princess. Once you get the princess, you pretty much win the game unless someone forces you to discard her.

Well, Loot Letter is pretty much the same – only there’s no princess. Only loot. And Ducks of Doom, and a Dread Gazebo. And a lot of potted plants.

I got the chance to play Loot Letter with some dear friends over dinner recently, and it was quite a bit of fun. J and Kasi had played it on their own previously, and found out there’s a lot less strategy involved and a lot more luck when playing with just two players. Adding a third player, though, made things more fun, and introduced more strategic moves to try and win the loot. Even though I goofed up a few times by not entirely thinking through some of my moves (like using a Dread Gazebo to swap hands with someone without really thinking about the effects of someone else ending up with the cards in my hand), I somehow managed to win the most loot!

If you’re in need of a short game to pass the time while waiting for food at a restaurant, or for a TV show to start, but don’t feel like something sappy, then Munchkin: Loot Letter is the game for you.

Munchkin: Loot Letter on Amazon

The LARPing Nerd

The cast of Kishar Game 43! (I’m the one in grey, to the bottom left of the banner.)

Yes, I finally did it: I went to a LARP.  A real, actual LARP.

And it was FUN.

A little backstory for everyone: when I was a freshman in college, many many years ago, a couple of friends felt it’d be a great idea to start a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP.  They loved role-playing, and they thought it’d be awesome to do some live-action Vampire: The Masquerade stuff.  So,  they herded together a bunch of friends who they thought would have fun in a Vampire LARP, and nudged us in the direction of character creation, and then bam! LARP night at their house!

It didn’t work out all that well.

First off, we didn’t have actual character sheets – we were just told to pick a vampire clan and go with that.  We ended up with a very unbalanced group, given that 3/4ths of the people playing chose to play characters from one clan.  Second off, there was no combat.  Or story. Just a bunch of college kids, sitting around in the living room of a former fraternity house, acting crazy and wearing costumes, drinking wine if you were old enough and pretending it was blood.

I went to maybe two games before I gave up and said “this LARP stuff really isn’t for me.”

But then I met J.  And learned what LARPs are really like if they’re run well.

Combat time! Our brave adventurers came upon a nest of sand dragons.

When I met J last year, he told me about the LARP he ran – Kishar – and said I was welcome to come to a game if I wanted to.  And I ended up waffling about it for a year or so, based on my bad experiences in that Vampire: The Masquerade LARP I went to back in 2000.  I kinda wanted to join up, because as you probably know, I do enjoy any excuse to get into a costume.  And I was always interested in boffer fighting (where weapons are made out of foam and latex), even though I wasn’t ever sure where to get started with that.  And the setting, which draws on the Arabian Nights stories for inspiration, was intriguing.

So I said “heck, why not?  I’ll go to a game, see what it’s about.”  And I did – at the end of March.

I wasn’t feeling super well that weekend, so while new players typically play monsters, I ended up trailing the group while they were out in the woods fighting, and taking pictures.  It was a really good way to get a feel for how combat works, and to listen to the story and see some action as it happened.  While I only knew a handful of people in the group, everyone was welcoming and friendly, and despite feeling pretty cruddy physically, I had a pretty darn good time.

Our brave adventurers examine the loot they got off a group of bandits.

After I absorbed everything going on in Kishar for a weekend, I ended up deciding “yes, this is a thing I want to do” and started crafting a character in earnest.  My character will be Ëlinyr (pronounced ay-lin-ear), a sun elf scholar who studies and uses magic.  And as I started putting together my character, I realized this is the most perfect way to get my crafty nerdiness on.  Not only do I get to make a roleplay character (and therefore indulging in my nerdy side), I also get to put together a costume (which brings in the crafty side of things).  And as I said earlier, you all know how much I love making and wearing costumes.  Most of this past weekend was spent working on Ëlinyr’s costume, to get it ready for the next game.

 

Our brave adventurers killed a baby scorpion monster!

So, I’m really excited about having this new place to get my craftiness and nerdiness on.  As I said to J after the game ended, Kishar feels like Gen Con and summer camp combined, and it’s awesome.  And who knows, maybe I’ll get Ross into it too, and we can run around the forest in costumes together!

Evolving Collections

And no, I’m not talking about Pokemon here, heheh.

One of the things I’ve noticed as an emphatic collector of things that relate to my most loved fandoms is that my collections tend to evolve, especially the longer I end up in the fandom.  When I’m building my collection, I tend to buy anything and everything relating to my favorite show or game.  Sailor Moon hairbrushes?  Sure, I’ll buy six!  Twilight Sparkle toothbrush holder?  This would be amazing in my bathroom!  Princess Peach change purse?  Doubt I’ll ever use it, but Princess Peach stuff is so freaking rare that I’ll buy anything I see with her face on it!  Toothless coin bank?  You’re coming home with me, buddy.  Anything with a scooter on it?  I MUST HAVE IT.  And so on.

But after a while, I get overwhelmed with the largeness of my collection.  At one point, I must have had about fifty little brushable My Little Ponies.  And my Sailor Moon collection, back in its heyday, was absolutely ridiculous.  I had such silly things like a Sailor Moon birthday party set – cups, plates, etcetera – still in its original packaging.  And six Sailor Moon hair brushes.  I’ve got a couple pictures below of the Sailor Moon collection, circa 2005, along with other assorted anime goodies – forgive the quality, the photos were taken on a digital camera that was old in 2005…

I also used to own a Princess Toadstool cookie jar.  (Oh, the stories I could tell about wanting that silly cookie jar, and my excitement when I finally got it…)

The Princess Toadstool cookie jar, with me in my first foray into costume-making, circa 1997.

And don’t even get me started on the My Little Pony collection…

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10 More Free Nerdy Cross-Stitch Patterns!

Last year, I did a collection of free cross-stitch patterns – and everyone loved it!  I think that’s one of the most viewed posts on the blog.  So, as a holiday treat, I’m going to share ten more awesomely nerdy cross-stitch patterns that are completely free!  Simply click on the image for your desired pattern, and it’ll take you to the pattern’s website.

TARDIS Quote Pattern

tardispattern

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The Crafty Nerd Revisits Final Fantasy VII

cnffvii

With all the hype surrounding the remake of Final Fantasy VII floating around the internet lately, and with the lack of classes for the next couple of weeks, I figured now was the best time to get re-acquainted with one of the most applauded and well-loved RPGs around.  (It also didn’t hurt that FFVII was on sale for $3.60 on Amazon/Steam on Black Friday, either…)  For those of you who haven’t ever played the game before, there are some spoilers in here, so be forewarned.

Some backstory…

Now, I’ve got a long history with this game.  A long and ridiculous history.  It goes way back to 1998, after the game first came out – I wanted to play it, really badly, but my mother didn’t think we needed a PlayStation in addition to our slew of Nintendo consoles.  So, I borrowed a friend’s player’s guide and read through it.  I read through the freaking instruction manual for the game a billion times.  I’d listen to the neighbor kid tell me his progress in the game as he worked his way through it, living vicariously through him.  And when I finally made it to college, and got a job, I bought the PC version of Final Fantasy VII.  And man, was it buggy, and playing it on a keyboard was rough, but I loved it.  I soaked up all the fan fiction and fan art I could.  Somewhere in my ancient stash of MP3 backup CDs, there’s a disc full of FFVII music I downloaded from Napster way back in the day.  That game was my life.

After classes ramped up, I ended up putting the game aside – and if I remember right, I ended up loaning it to a friend, never to be seen again.  Fast forward to when I managed to acquire a PS1 of my very own – I bought a used copy, and played it religiously until midway through Disc 2, I think, where my copy had a scratch and simply refused to go any further than a cutscene somewhere in Cosmo Canyon of Red XIII howling at the moon.  Some years later, my friend Patty gave me her copy of FFVII and the player’s guide, and made me very happy.  And I played the heck out of that, from the beginning, because I lost the memory card that my original save game was on.

And then I somehow lost the copy Patty gave me.  I have no idea HOW.  I still have the player’s guide that went with it.  I even have the memory card my save file is on, just in case I actually find the game again.  I’m still miffed about its disappearance. Why couldn’t I lose Final Fantasy VIII?  That game was far more infuriating to play, with its weird junction system.  Anyhow.  Fast forward again, to when Bryan buys a PS3.  I find out I can get FFVII from the PlayStation store, and of course I buy it, and play through the beginning of the game a FOURTH time.  Then I bought a PS Vita, Bryan and I split, and I had to start FFVII again.  A fifth time.  (At least the version I bought from the PS Store worked on both the PS3 and the Vita!)

Then, of course, I sold my PS Vita because I never actually used it for much aside from the occasional “oh maybe I should play Final Fantasy something-or-other”.  So, Black Friday this year rolls around, and I figure, why not?  I’m gonna buy a fifth copy of FFVII on Amazon/Steam.  Because I can, and because I am DETERMINED to beat the game.  Even though I know how it ends, because my friend Tyler spoiled it all for me back in 1998.  So I did, and I even found the dongle that allows you to hook up a PlayStation 1/2 controller to a computer through USB.  Success!

Glad I hung onto that Player's Guide...
Glad I hung onto that Player’s Guide…

Playing the Game

Now that I’ve got the game again, and I’ve made it through roughly 8 hours of the game, I’ve noticed quite a few things about this PC release.  First off, there’s been some tweaking to the character models – the polygons look nice and smooth now.  Which makes for a HUGE contrast when compared to the backgrounds and static objects in the game, which look incredibly pixelated.  My first couple hours in this replay were spent playing in front of a 28 inch monitor hooked up to my Surface, and my first thoughts were “wow, this game has not aged well, graphically.”

Super smooth characters, super pixelly background...
Super smooth characters, super pixelly background at high resolutions…

Another observation I had: I don’t know if the characters always looked like this, or if this is just due to playing an old game on an HD computer monitor, but whoa, do the characters eyes look WEIRD.

The pixelated eyes on the smooth polygon characters is... kinda unsettling.
The pixelated eyes on the smooth polygon characters is… kinda unsettling on an HD monitor.

They’re incredibly pixelated, compared to the typical gameplay character models.  And it’s weird.  Did they always look like that, or is it just emphasized because they smoothed the heck out of the character models?  I have no idea.  I’ll say this for sure – the game looks far better on smaller screens, like the Surface Pro – you don’t notice the super-pixelation or the weirdness with the eyes on the character models all that much.

Awkward shot of everyone's favorite super-villain, Sephiroth!
Awkward shot of everyone’s favorite super-villain, Sephiroth!

The battle character models look a bit better than they used to, which is nice!  The polygon smoothing and extra sprucing up worked out well in this department.  They’re good looking, better than 1997 standards.  I actually kinda like going into battles, especially with newly acquired characters, to see how spiffy their models are looking.

Aww, it's a family portrait... *snerk*
Aww, it’s a family portrait… *snerk*

One thing that hasn’t changed at all are the quality of the cutscenes.  Which were absolutely fantastic for 1997, and are a little grainy now but still hold the storytelling impact they previously did.  I spent last night holding my controller tightly as Cloud talked about his past with Sephiroth, and even after playing through Kalm Town for the third time, I still find the story as immersive and gripping as I did the first time I played it.

One thing I’m not quite too sure about is Square Enix’s implementation of the Character Booster – it’s helpful, yeah, but it’s not quite what I was expecting.  When I read about it, it seemed like it was meant to max out all your character’s stats – and their level, too – to 9999, therefore making it easy to push through the game for the story if that’s all you care about.  What it does in reality is boost the HP/MP of the characters currently in your party to their max levels (around 9999 HP/999 MP, but it’s different for each character), and maxes your gil out to 4999999999 or some other absurdly high amount.  And don’t get me wrong, that’s helpful, but it’s not what I was anticipating – and it means I’m still stuck level grinding so I can actually do damage to enemies.  Plus, I have to remember to go back and tweak the Character Boost stuff every time I get a new party member – I just picked up Red XIII, and he’s only got 450 HP, compared to Barret’s 9900, so back to the Square Enix website I must go to boost my stats…

I’m looking forward to finally beating the game, though.  Sure, I’m only 8 hours in, but I’ll get there eventually.  Especially considering the motivation I’ve got for finishing – having the whole story under my belt before the FFVII Remake comes out.  And who knows, maybe this’ll rekindle my inner gamer.  After all, Final Fantasy VI is being released on Steam this afternoon…

Game Review: Pairs (or: What to do while waiting for GenCon housing access)

Well, I found myself with some unexpected time on my hands today, and I’ve been intending to review this game for a bit, so….

 

Pairs: The Review

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I’ve had this game on a shelf since September, waiting for the chance to get to play it.  I discovered the Kickstarter for Pairs through Patrick Rothfuss’ blog, sometime last spring, and eagerly backed the project and snagged three decks as a result.  (I mean, come on, Pat could put his name on anything and I’d be likely to back it.)  There were many decks available to choose from, and I picked three with artwork from Pat Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles series, as I do love those books and was curious to see Shane Tyree and Nate Taylor’s artistic interpretation of the characters I’ve enjoyed reading about.  Once the decks finally got delivered, I opened them all up, looked at the beautiful artwork, and then set them in my “let’s play this later” pile on my bookshelf.

There are even more games, but they don't quite fit on the bookshelf...
There are even more games, but they don’t quite fit on the bookshelf…

Fast forward to today – the day housing access opens up on Gen Con’s website!  I eagerly awaited the coming of 12:00 pm, to see how long of a wait I’d have to get to the housing portal…

WHAT
WHAT

So, Ross and I figured this would be a good time to pick up Pairs and play.    Based on what I’d heard about it from the Kickstarter page, and what I’d read in the rules when I’d first opened the games, it seemed pretty simple – points were earned by getting a pair of cards, and the person with the highest score lost.  So, going off of that, we figured we’d shuffle the cards (which turned into an ordeal, due to the fact that neither of us can properly shuffle a deck of cards without turning it into a game of 52 Pick-Up) and start a game!  I read off the rules while Ross and I took turns slowly shuffling the deck – and the rules ended up being a little less straightforward than we initially thought…

It took Ross and I a little while to put the rules in terms we could wrap our brains around...
It took Ross and I a little while to put the rules in terms we could wrap our brains around…

Gameplay, for Ross and I, went as follows: Whoever dealt took five cards from the deck and put them face-down to start the discard deck, as the rules suggested, and then the dealer passed out a card to each of us – whoever had the lowest card went first.  Then, we’d take turns drawing cards, hoping neither of us would end up with a pair – especially a high scoring pair.  (The deck is a pyramid deck – there’s one 1, two 2s, three 3s, and so on, making your chances of getting a high numbered card pretty large.)  When one of us ended up with a pair, that ended the round – we’d set aside a card from that pair to keep score, and the rest went into the discard pile.  We repeated that until one of us hit 31 points, the suggested “losing” score number that the rules gave us.

2015-01-25 12.29.24
A round in progress…

 

It was actually pretty fun – and once we figured out what we were doing, we enjoyed it.  I think we ended up playing three games – I lost twice, Ross lost once.  It didn’t help too much that Ross kept commenting on the artwork on the cards – it hinted at what cards he had, haha.  The artwork for the Commonwealth Deck (the one we played with), done by Shane Tyree, is absolutely gorgeous. While I wish the art focused on specific characters in the Kingkiller Chronicles, the game is mentioned to be played in the universe of the stories – and characters from the story seeing themselves on a card, well, that’d be rather odd.

Steve enjoyed the game, too.  He thought it was tasty.
Steve enjoyed the game, too. He thought it was tasty.

Overall, it was a pretty fun game, and a good way to kill time.  I think it might have been even more fun with more people playing, but for Ross and I, it was pretty good too.  I might even bring this along with me if I’m going out to eat with a group of people, as a fun way of keeping everyone entertained while waiting for food.  If you want to learn more, visit the Pairs page on Cheapass Games’ website!

Well, killed some more time...
Well, killed some more time…

And it meant a half-hour’s worth of time not spent looking at the computer, anxiously waiting our turn for housing.  (At the time of this writing, I’ve got fourteen and a half minutes left – I hope hope hope there’s still room in the JW Marriott or even the Hampton Inn…)

61 Levels Later… (or, eight months with HabitRPG)

Started out as a lowly warrior, back in December...
Started out as a lowly warrior, back in December…

How many of you remember me posting about HabitRPG, the to-do and habit building site/app that turns your life into an epic adventure where you can earn experience for taking the dog for a walk?   Well, if you can’t quite remember it, here’s the post I wrote.

I’ll admit – when I first started using HabitRPG, I was thinking “oh, I know me, I won’t stick around for long.  I’ll use it diligently for a few weeks, and then stop.”  That’s usually how it goes with me – but not this time.  Oh, definitely not this time.

Logging in day after day, checking off my to-do list and daily habits and getting experience for them, well, the novelty did wear off after a little while.  But then I went on some quests.  I fought Vice and got some pretty impressive goodies such as a staff that makes my awesome Mage just that much awesomer.  I conquered The Spirit of Spring, The Hedgebeast, and Octothulu and earned quite an impressive menagerie of pets. And most recently, I banded together with all the citizens of Habitica to fight off the Dread Drag’on of Dilatory.  The quests are definitely one of the things that keep me coming back.

And I can play with friends, too.  There’s two ways to do this – you can have a party of people you go questing with, or you can create a guild and participate in challenges.  Either way is a great way to keep yourself coming back.  There were some days where I was feeling lazy, and didn’t really feel like logging in and marking my stuff off as done… but then I’d remember I was part of a quest with my party members, and if I didn’t log in, they’d take damage, and I didn’t want that to happen – which motivated me to get off my butt, get stuff done, and help fight off whatever boss we were tangling with at the moment.

From lowly warrior to epic Mage, with a Mantis Shrimp as my pet!
From lowly warrior to epic Mage, with a Mantis Shrimp as my pet!

Now it’s been around eight months since I got an account and started leveling up my little character.  And in those eight months, I’ve developed some good habits.  No snacking late at night.  Walking every day, and taking short walk breaks when I’m in the office all day.  Making sure I actually eat breakfast AND lunch each day.  Keeping hydrated by making sure I drink enough water.  My habits and daily tasks are constantly evolving, too.  When the end of August comes and classes start up again, I’ll likely be adding tasks to make sure I get my homework done.  And with the new house, there’ll be new chores too (I expect to be vacuuming a lot more often, given I’ll not only have carpeting pretty much everywhere, I’ll also have a cat!), and of course I’ll need to get into the habit of doing them regularly.  And I know HabitRPG will help me with that!

So, if you’re already on Habit, look up the guild The Crafty Nerds.  It’s the official guild of The Crafty Nerd (you’ll know you’re in the right place if you see Scooterlou as the guild leader, I mean, come on, who else would name their character after their old scooter but me), and I’d be happy to have you there!  And if you’re not, why not join up?  It’s free, it’s easy to get the hang of, and will definitely help you build some good habits.  Plus, the retro art style keeps things fun, and the wide variety of quests to do, pets to collect, and people to meet in the Tavern will keep you coming back.

HabitRPG: Where doing laundry gets you experience points!

One thing that I am horrible at is building new habits – and sticking to them.  Sure, I’ll wear my Fitbit for about a week, excited about all the data it provides to me about how far I’ve walked and how many times I woke up in the middle of the night, then forget it at home one day… and sure I’ll say “I’m going to read ALL THE BOOKS this year” and then, without fail, end up on the computer all weekend and watching Law and Order to fall asleep.  Or I’ll start a craft project, work on it for a few weeks, and then go “oooh I should start another Doctor Who scarf” and forget about whatever it was I was working on completely.

Well, HabitRPG sets out to change that.

habitrpgYes, that’s my little tiny character, clad in leather armor, brandishing a sword.  I need to keep up my good habits in order to earn a helm.

The premise is very simple – build habits and complete tasks, earn XP and gold pieces to spend on in-game goodies to keep you from losing too much health should you forget to complete a given task in a day, or to redeem for real-life privileges and treats.  When you log in for the first time, you’ll see four columns – Habits, Dailies, To Do, and Rewards.  You’ll also see a little pixel version of your character up in the left hand corner of the screen, which you can customize to your liking.  HabitRPG will suggest some habits and daily tasks for you, as well as suggest some possible rewards you can give to yourself – the first thing I did was set up some habits that I’m working on (like wearing my Fitbit every day, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, bringing my lunch to work) and also add some daily tasks I wanted to make sure I did every day (including reading a book for at least 30 minutes, and spending an hour away from the computer – which you might think is easy, but when you work in IT, your entire life is computers!).  To-do comes in handy as a reminder list that also earns me gold and XP – and the Rewards section is where you can go spend your gold.

habitrpg2

Don’t think that it’s just a cute way to remember to walk the dog and mail out the bills, however.  There are QUESTS.  (Or, as HabitRPG calls them, challenges.)  Yes, you can compete with/against other HabitRPG warriors for the potential to earn goodies while building good habits!  Which is pretty awesome.  And you can randomly get pets – I picked up a wolf egg when I checked off one of my dailies today. 😀

And so you don’t have to go it alone – you can create parties, join a guild, and more.  I’m currently going it alone, as there’s no easy way to share a link to a party so others can join, but if any of you readers join up, shoot me a comment on here or on the Facebook page with your User ID (which can be found either here or here, but you must be logged in) and I’ll add you to my party!

So, for those of you who have some trouble sticking to new habits, or just want to find a new way to make doing all that laundry exciting, give HabitRPG a try! I’m enjoying the heck out of it, and may have freaked out a little when I neglected my chores for a day and though “nooo, my little warrior is going to die if I don’t clean!”, heheh.

 

Tiny little review of a tiny little game: Love Letter

Last night, I had the opportunity to play a new game – it’s a short and sweet little game called Love Letter.  Michael and I played it while at dinner at the local Chinese buffet place – because why not have a little game with your dinner?

51Z6pBcHybLThe premise of Love Letter is simple – Princess Annette is pretty darn popular, and has quite a few suitors wanting to get a love letter to her.  However… she’s locked herself in a tower, and it’s your job to try and cozy up to the people closest to the princess in hopes of getting your letter to her.

61QKHd7QoBLThere’s a small deck of cards with various people from the castle, with different numbers on each card.  The number indicates how close that person is to the princess.  Each card also has a condition on it – for example, the Priest card makes it so another player has to show you their cards, and the Countess card has to be discarded if she’s caught with the King or the Prince in the same hand (scandalous!) – these conditions can make game play pretty interesting.

At the end of each round, whoever has the highest numbered card in their hand gets their letter to the princess, and they earn a token of her affection (which is a little tiny red cube).  Once a player earns enough tokens, they win the princess’s affection (and therefore the game).  The game can be played with 2-4 people, and the amount of tokens needed to win changes with the amount of people playing.  For two players, you need seven tokens to win.  It’s a pretty quick game to play, especially depending on what cards you end up with.

Michael and I managed to play through an entire game in a half hour – I was wiping the floor with him for a chunk of the game, as I kept getting lucky and getting the princess card (I mean, how much closer can you get to the princess when you’ve got the princess card?) – however, then Michael kept getting cards that made it that even once I’d gotten the princess card I’d have to discard it (and therefore lose the round, because the princess card’s condition? When discarded, you lose the round).  In the end, Michael swooped past me, captured the princess’s affections, and won.  I was so close, too – I was two tokens shy!

So, in short, this is a good little game to play if you’ve got a little bit of time to kill and want a small game to play – the entire game fits into a bag roughly the size of a dice bag, and doesn’t take terribly long to play.  It’s also pretty entertaining, too, and is pretty inexpensive to boot!  You can find it here on Amazon.

So, in short, The Crafty Nerd’s verdict?  Pretty darn awesome, and I suggest you give it a try!