Saturday, September 20, 2014

Love's Lost Legacy

While attending PAX Prime 2013 with friends, one of the highlights of the weekend was being introduced to the micro card game Love Letter. My good friend JP picked it up and showed it to us, having played it himself while visiting San Fransisco.

Love Letter, by designer Seiji Kanai, consists of a slim 16 card deck. The basic mechanic every turn is Draw One, Play One. You always have a card in hand, and draw a second, chose one of the two you now hold, and play it. Card actions are clearly described on each card, and none are particularly complex.

The round ends either when one player remains in play, or, if all cards are played, the remaining players compare their cards and the highest value card, displayed in the top left-hand corner, becomes the victor. The game is played traditionally on a first-to-four-points basis, though it works fine as a one round per game quick filler.

AEG's Love Letter is a wonderfully tight game, with beautiful art on every card, and presented in a beautiful red velvet pull-string bag. It's fast, fun and intense, resulting in lots of laughs and gasps of astonishment as people get knocked out in the most unbelievable way. Deducting what cards are left in play from those that are sitting exposed on the table is a fun, taxing time, with a light-hearted tension resting over the players.

As well as the red velvet bag edition of Love Letter, I also picked up the green velvet bag edition themed around the world of Legend of the Five Rings. This is the exact same game with roles and art reskinned to match the L5R universe.

Then I discovered Lost Legacy: The Lost Starship, from the same designer. Another micro game with a 16 card deck, and the same Draw One, Play One mechanic, this game has a fantasy tinged with Sci-Fi theme. It plays very similar to Love Letter, but the card actions are universally different.

The goal of Lost Legacy is to discover the location of The Lost Starship, a unique card in the deck. It also adds a Ruins location on the table, containing one or more cards. Card actions allow you to look at, swap or shuffle cards in the Ruins during the game. The endgame mechanic is unique as well, introducing an Investigation phase on top of the Elimination victory. If the game makes it to the Investigation phase, the players that are still active have a chance to discover the location of The Lost Legacy, either within the Ruins, or in other players hands. Whoever successfully discovers The Lost Legacy wins the game.

Like Love Letter, Lost Legacy is a tight, fast game. Some two players games have been over in a single action! The art is, again, beautiful, with very cool and interesting depictions of a fantasy world infected with Sci-Fi technology. Adding to my collection of beautiful packaging, Lost Legacy comes in a blue velvet pull-string bag.Unlike Love Letter, Lost Legacy is played in single rounds. The winner of a single round is the winner of a game. In the future, there will be sequel sets, Flying Garden and Whitegold Spire, allowing you to mix two sets for a bigger deck, or playing each set back-to-back as a campaign, which I'm ready to buy into.

While they seem very similar, both Love Letter and Lost Legacy share playtime at my gaming table, sometimes one directly after the other. They are equally fun and I love introducing both to new players and watching them understand how much depth can be had in just 16 cards. Highly recommended, if you're not already enjoying either of them.

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Monday, September 08, 2014

The Year So Far

I've been really terrible at posting this entire year! This is actually my fourth post in 2014, easily heading for my worst year yet on this blog.

But mostly, that's because it's been one of my best, busiest, fun-filled years in recent history! Claire and I have done so much this year, from getting our Permanent Residency at long last, to taking a holiday all to ourselves for the first time since we got married!

Both of us have taken this year to get healthy and fit. I've been swimming again for well over a year now, and I recently started jogging everywhere I can, for as much as I can. That usually means I jog for two or three blocks, walk for a block or two, and rinse and repeat until I get to where I want to go. The hope is that I'll build stamina and extend those periods of jogging to three, four, five blocks while minimizing the breaks in between. I still swim most mornings before work, which gets me going for the day ahead.

Claire, meanwhile, gave up swimming in exchange for swordfighting! She joined Academie Duello in Downtown, near where she works. Several of our friends have been doing it for years, and in the six or seven months that she's been involved, she's rarely gone less than three evenings a week, putting in about eight hours of intense training a week! She's recently started noticing that her t-shirts are getting tight around her biceps, and her pants are getting looser around the waists, but much tighter around the calves! She's far more flexible, happier and loves swinging big metal weapons around. I'm delighted for her, and only a little afraid for my own safety.

Summer has been amazing. We've enjoyed trips to the pool, lots of outdoor activites, and generally loving the warm weather, even if it did get a little too hot to comfortably sleep for a while there. I spent the summer working with the school age summer group, which involved loadsd of field trips and spending a lot of time outdoors, developing a vicious farmers tan in the process!

Last summer, boardgames fell to the wayside in favour of outdoor activities, but this year we've balanced our time better, and we get together with friends almost weekly to game, chat and hang out. New, old and even as-yet-unpublished games have been played and enjoyed, and our circle of friends have grown significantly in 2014, thanks to this wonderful hobby.

Speaking of hobbies, I'm still reading at a phenomenal pace, powering through sci-fi, adventure and murder msytery books throughout the year. I've read a few comics as well, but not as many as I used to, usually one or two in between two novels, sort of as a short downtime. Though I did read the entire Superior Spider-Man run, which I highly recommend. Fantastic stuff! I really loved that new, meaner Spidey for a while.

On the other hand, video games have been very seasonal, with lots getting played in the opening months, but quickly falling off once the weather started to improve. I even did a bunch of Let's Play videos for my YouTube Channel, including a long XCOM series staring all my friends! Some died. The video thing is something I do hope to get back to as the winter evening creep back in. They were a push to learn all new skills in audio and video editting, as well as trying out commentary work, which is something I've always wanted to do. I definitely improved between the first and last videos, but I have a long way to go yet.

At the start of August Claire and I went to Whistler, a holiday village about two hours north of Vancouver. It's best known for its ski season, with stunning slopes, beautiful log cabins and lots of places to warm up around a cosy fireplace. But the summer season is awesome fun! We went on a two hour ATV trail up the mountain, during which time we saw no bears, unfortunately. We went to the top of the mountain on the gondola, and then across between the two mountains on the longest and highest unsupported gondola lift in the world! We have a buffet barbeque at the mountain peak, played crazy golf at the base, got lost in the woods around Lost Lake and relaxed and recovered in a Scandinavian Spa for a few blissful hours. And all that was just the first three out of five days!

Now we're into September. We have so much happening over the coming months, which you'll be hearing about as it happens. I have craft projects I can't wait to show off (Hint: They're boardgame related), new artwork I'm super proud of and more. Claire is hard at work on her writing and web development, constantly inventing new ways to create awesome things.

So while 2014 has been quiet on One Terrific Day, it hasn't been in our lives. New things are happening every day, and we can't wait to share them with you all as they come up.

Stay reading, stay gaming and stay tuned!

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Hanabi

The hardest part of this game is that you hold the cards the wrong way around.

No. Really. That's going to be the bit that trips you up more than any other.

In Hanabi, you play technicians tasked with putting on a spectacular fireworks show, but you've made one slight error. The sequence for firing each rocket has been mixed up, and now you and your fellow technicians must correctly launch your coloured gunpowder tubes, without admitting your own fault.

Everything is backwards

Each player has a hand of cards, but holds them facing out to the rest of the table. Thus, you know what everyone else has, but no idea what you hold yourself. On your turn, you can play a card, discard a card, or give a piece of information. Information is limited, represented by eight clock tokens that get removed as information is shared, and recycled if a card is discarded.

It is up to the players to make five suits of fireworks, one in each colour, each containing five cards, numbered one to five, in ascending order. If a card is played incorrectly, either because a copy of it is already in play, or the card one lower than it is not yet in play, then the fuse shortens and the tension rises.

The game ends if all five fireworks are completed, if the draw deck empties or if three fuse tokens are discarded to the box, revealing the explosion token. At that point, the highest value card in each colour is added together to get the groups final score.

Hanabi is a fun, tense game of strategic planning, memory, deduction and a little luck. It plays fast, and supports up to five players.

We love this game at my house, and it gets a lot of playtime, most popular with four or five players, but fun with two as well. Because information is scarce, and there are restrictions on how information is given, what you chose to tell someone, and what you chose not to tell them becomes the key to victory or defeat. Also, once a piece of information has been given, it's up to that player to remember it. Other players shouldn't remind their fellow technicians what was revealed in previous rounds.

It's hilarious being able to see everyone else's hand, but not your own. Looking around at opening hands is always fun, realizing that the other players all hold all the fives, or that one player has three red ones in her hand. Co-ordinating the distribution of information with other players is easy at first, but becomes more difficult, as you can't explicitly tell the active player what to do. Trying to work out the value of being told "These two cards are RED" can be tricky, and I've often found myself discarding a valuable card or playing an inappropriate card because I misjudged something.

It can also be incredibly frustrating seeing a valuable card in another players hand, but not being able to get them that vital piece of information. But that's all part of the game.

I recently brought Hanabi into work with me and tried it out with some of the kids I teach. I was planning on just teaching the older group, but we had one seven year old in the group, and he was the first to totally get how the game works. While I was explaining the rules, he would stop and ask me a clarifying question, by way of a play example, and he was right in his assumption every time! When we played, it was clear that the group had no issues with understanding the rules, and enjoyed the tension of watching another player agonise over whether to discard or play a card inhand.

Hanabi is a wonderful game, and comes highly recommended. It's also the first of three games by designer Antoine Bauza that I'll be reviewing in upcoming posts!

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Let's Play

Whelp! It's been a while! What?!? I've been busy... Mostly.

Claire got me a powerful PC for Christmas, and I started recording my games and uploading them to YouTube, which was a lot of fun while I was playing games, and then not so much when I started back into board games in a big way. I was only ever doing the YouTube thing as a hobby, so once I started spending my time on another, more social hobby, that fell to the sidelines.

Still, I had a blast making YouTube videos. I did a bunch of short plays, mostly showcasing opening areas, while I collectively called "Couch Projections". These were a lot of fun, and usually involved minimal editing, as they were straight plays of what I experienced. Some, like the fantastic OctoDad: Dadliest Catch ended up being too long, with too much of me feeling lost and not knowing what to do, so I editted those down to tight, short plays, highlighting the best parts. Others, like FLT: Faster Than Light seemed to be paced perfectly for what I intended the Couch Projections series to be. Either way, they were a lot of fun!

The only extended series I did was a full run on XCOM: Enemy Within, including all the DLC. The whole squad was named after friends and family, and they bravely fought aliens and died to protect humanity. I had an absolute blast recording this, and it was my first time ever finishing a full playthrough of XCOM, which I had originally owned on the Xbox 360 since launch.

As of this post, the final mission is not yet online. That's because, once I got to it and played it, it was kind of boring. It's a straight run through a linear base, with an alien voice explaining away any questions you had about the creatures you've been battling with for months. I struggled to edit and narrrate an engaging version of the mission, adding in fluff story details like I had been doing, but nothing was coming together. I'll really make an effort to go back to it and finish it just for the saake of completion, but it's not going to be a great ending.

I actually have plans for another XCOM series I'd love to do. There is a fan-made mod for the PC game called The Long War that dramatically changes many of the game elements, including skills tree, which are now much more in-depth, the terror tracks on nations, research, weapons and upgrades, and basically the whole feel of the game. I've been really excited about trying it out, so this is something I'm interested in doing. So keep an eye on my YouTube for that!

And if you want to volunteer to protect humanity, leave a comment on this post and you might see yourself drafted! Remember, service guarantees citizenship!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

More

Happy 2014! It's been a great start to the New Year for me, and I have tonnes of stuff to look back and blog about from the Christmas holiday, but let's start 2014 off by looking forward.

While I don't make New Years resolutions, my goal for this year is to be "more". Make more, do more.

I'm going to draw more, and craft more. I have lots of art and craft supplies built up in a storage box, and I haven't been using them enough. I made my own Christmas tree this year, which was awesome fun, and I'm determined to make more stuff in 2013. Also, I'm going to draw more, both in sketch books and digitally. I still what to make a webcomic, so here's the deal: Ask me about it. Pester me about it. When I run out of excuses for why I haven't started, you have my permission to demand it. I love drawing, and I get a little bit better every time I take out my pencils. I just need to stop making excuses to leave them where they are.

I'm going to blog more. Yes, I realise the irony of saying that given that it took until now to write my first blog of 2014, but I'm going to do this. I'm immensely proud of how long I've had this blog now, and how much I've written in that time. 2014 is not going o be the end of that, but a strengthening of it.

For Christmas, Claire got me a monster fo a gaming PC. Suddenly, I found myself able to record my game plays, edit and upload them to YouTube and join the Let's Play community. I'm going to do this more and develop my editing skills more. I've been really enjoying it so far, and I find I'm even enjoying the game more because of it. I'm going to try live-streams in time, but before that, I want to try playing games I'm brand new to (Thank you Steam and Humble Bundle), and recording my commentary live as I react to these new experiences.

I'm going to role-play more and board game more. There was a time last year when we were board gaming every other week, sometimes more, but I stopped over the summer and only got back into it during Christmas. We gamed four times in that week, and I loved it. Also, it's been over a year, and probably closer to two since I GMed. Time to fix that.

I'm going to be with friends more, and talk to friends far away more. I'm going to Skype more and maybe even try this new-fangled Google Hangouts thing some time. I have my own PC with Steam now, so I'm going to try to game with friends more.

2014 is going to be more.

And anyone I can take along for the ride, I'll be happy to have the company.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Inspiration Hack

Last Sunday my Twitter account was hacked. It was little more than an annoying inconvenience, a string of tweets all sent within a minute of each other that I just ran down through and deleted. I trust my friends who follow me were clever enough to spot the spam and not click any links, but I imagine it was annoying for them too. For a minute on Sunday, their feed got clogged up with more than the usual level of junk that I tweet.

I caught it about an hour after it happened, so some friends might not even have seen it. Three of my friends were good enough to contact me about it, and at least one also contacted Claire, just in case.

Over the last few years, I've made my passwords stronger and stronger, but some sites that I've been a part of for a while don't get updated enough. It's worse now that I have my iPad, and everything is always logged in for me, so I don't even have to use my passwords. Rest assured, I have updated my Twitter password, as well as a few others that I neglected recently.

However, all this did serve as my muse for my latest short story, You've Been Hacked, published here. So, for that, thank you, malicious bastard hacker program. I have no idea how you learned of my alpha-numeric, non-dictionary password, but I'm actually kind of glad you did.

Just don't do it again. Thanks.

Shop online for all your Christmas gifts, at Thinkgeek.com, including this Spider-Man Holiday Plush

 

You've Been Hacked

You've Been Hacked.

I never imagined it would take so little to strike fear right to my core. Just three words on a black background. I opened my eyes and blinked twice.

You've Been Hacked.

It was still displayed on my Message Center, on a red banner, scrolling across my eyes. It took a few seconds before I realised I was shivering, and a few more before I realised why. I stumbled out of the freezing shower, gasping for breath, and fell painfully onto the bathroom mat. You've Been Hacked floated above the back of my hands.

I shook my head, willing my Message Center to close, and had to approve the standard confirmation request in the event of an unread priority message. I looked around, grabbing the towel I kept on the back of the door and wrapping it around myself, without actually standing up yet. Once I felt I had regained enough control of my shaking legs, I tried supporting myself on the toilet and pushed to a standing posture.

My heart skipped half a beat when I opened the door. I could hear low voices from the living area. I didn't remember inviting a guest to stay, let alone enough to hold a conversation without my involvement. My apartment just wasn't big enough for that many people. I inched into the hall, trying to be quiet, but every splash of water from my clothing sounded like a waterfall in my head. I was soaked through. I must have been in the shower for a while.

A moment of brief relief passed over me when I saw that the wall monitor was set to a station, broadcasting a report with someone talking from a studio to a woman standing outside, the honeycomb dome barely visible in the night sky behind her. The sound was turned low, such that, even standing at the doorway, I couldn't make out what was being discussed.

I shuffled, shivering uncontrollably, into the bedroom. I was just pulling on a warm, dry pair of cargo pants when my Message Center flashed up again.

1 Priority Message. 4 Messages. 16 Missed Calls.

I willed my Message Center to display my messages. Two were marked Where are you? One CALL ME, in all caps, and one Have you seen the news feeds? I walked into the living area, expecting it before I saw it.

My face stared, dead-eyed, back at me from the wall monitor. Well, it was almost my face. No amount of rendered pores, blood vessels or muscles could hide the uncanny valley effect of a 3D generated model mask, despite the cost of the police software behind it. But it was definitely me, or my evil, plastic twin.

The woman reporter reappeared, mumbling something just below comfortable hearing level. Lights flashed behind her, reds and blues casting odd shadows across her perfectly retexture features, ruining the effect of a very expensive procedure. Below her, a ticker scrolled past.

16 Confirmed Dead In Terrorist Attack On El-Rail Car

Time to read that Priority Message.