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Ongoing Investigations: Case #172

June 1, 2012

I had the pleasure of playing a bunch of games of Penny Arcade: Gamers VS. Evil which is a deck-building card game. As an ex-Magic player, I have a high interest in games like this. It takes out the more expensive and sometimes difficult aspect. Plus, from the few I’ve played they are very fast paced as you build your deck on the fly. Gamers VS. Evil was all that with the bonus of being hilarious.

Using a dungeon-like component, you and the other players build up a deck of creatures and abilities which you use to attack the bosses. Boss loot and some other cards have point values which is how you win the game at the end.

There are different strategies to the game, but there are two basic types of cards: tokens and powers. Since tokens were green and so was the boss character of Gabe as Cardboard Tube Samurai, I decided I wanted to use tokens as my base. It took me a while to figure tokens out but I was determined to get them to work for me. From my experience they are a slower build as you start making your deck. Powers were strong going out of the gate.

Each character you play as some neat ability and it is one way of figuring out your strategy for the round, too. I had a blast playing as Gabe (since he helped my green deck hopes) but the best was Rex Ready! Because he is Rex Ready. He actually let me purge cards from my hand which is really helpful in a game like this.

Games flew by which I loved! With a rule that once six card stacks run out the game end, you are on a tight schedule to make your points count. Highly recommended and I can’t wait to play the expansion.

I have always enjoyed CCGs but hated the immense cost involved in playing them. There is a certain joy in buying booster packs but if you want to be in any way competitive you need to throw down a considerable investment. Anyone who has played Magic: The Gathering can attest to that. But with some good friends and a solid library you can have games that are radically different each time you play them. This makes the deck building game is a wonderful child of the CCG. While it is not as flexible and its parent it is far cheaper. You simply buy one box and you have a complete game and you have a game that plays much like a sealed booster match. A great compromise for those who like CCGs but also like eating regularly.

I recently played the Penny Arcade deck building game called Gamers VS. Evil. It is a solid version of the deck building formula with cards based on the various silliness from the web comic. You have everything from the Cardboard Tube Samurai to Pax Pox. Each player chooses an avatar that determines their starting hand and molds their play style with their special ability. You then take turns buying card to put in your deck. You can buy either red cards that mainly revolve around attacking and green cards which tend to have more indirect effects. Certain cards are worth points for buying them but mostly you want to build up your deck so you can buy from the Boss character piles. They have the cards with the best abilities and highest point values. The game ends when either types of cards are all sold out or one of the boss piles is empty. The player with the deck with the highest point value is the winner.

The game itself is lots of fun. We had 4 players and after 2 learning games we played several games in quick succession. If you know what your doing you you can play a game rather quickly. Since the cards you can buy are random much of your strategy comes from which Avatar you have and what is available to purchase. As with any deck building game or CCG deck control cards are worth their weight in gold. Any thing that lets you discard cards from your deck or draw more cards is powerful. Other than that most of your decision come down to how do you most effectively use your Avatar’s special ability to get boss cars as quickly as possible.

I did notice one oddity. The game is rather passive when it comes to other players. Despite the fact that there are PVP cards that let you give players negative points there is little to do to interfere with other players. In fact the most active and powerful strategy you have against other players is buying out the cards they need for their strategy. But the PVP cards do earn you a bit of ire anytime you play them none the less.

The game was really fun and each round felt slightly different. Apparently there another version called Rumble in R’lyeh. It same the same mechanics but all new cards. You can play that as a stand alone game or combine both sets together. That is a great way to keep the game alive but keep the price sane. I can’t wait to play it again.

I read my first manga on JManga! I finally decided to try it out with est em’s Apartments of Calle Feliz (aka Happy End Apartments) a one book series of short stories involving different people in one apartment building.

It starts with a writer ending up there and getting a room. His editor wants him to write a happy ending to his story but he is having trouble. His new roommate suggests telling stories about the residents. And in the end he finds a little happiness himself with a little bittersweetness that is quite honest.

I also enjoyed the couple, one a fashion design, and the other an artist who hasn’t worn a stitch of clothing for three years.

These are simple, artful with touches of humor character stories as is what I’ve come to expect from est em’s BL.

I have made some serious progress in Sekien No Inganock recently. I remember reading that there is some serious repetition as the game goes on. They were actually being kind. When I first looked at the game I had only read the first two chapters. But 11 chapters into the game I have a much more intimate view of the game’s writing style.

If you read the first 2 Gosick light novels in English you will notice that author loves to reuse certain descriptions. Victorique must be described the same way at least 3 times per book. The author of Sekien No Inganock does the same thing. Certain things like Gii fighting or the scenes of the Golden Staircase often use the same phrases again and again. Some times this is used for effect. The repetition is there to reenforce an idea so that it makes a difference when the lines are subtly changed. The problem is there are better ways to do get that same effect that don’t make you feel that the author is just very fond of the copy and paste shortcuts. At this point I have to wonder if it is an aspect of Japanese writing or an odd quirk of otaku writing.

The reason it stands out all the more is that 11 chapters into the game I feel that while I have gotten a good deal of answers there are still 3 times as many unanswered questions. While I still have the last chapter to finish I know they are not going to wrap that all up. Plus the game likes to imply things and give you many of its answers via inference. This is hardly a horrible thing but it makes the repeated material stand out even more. It seems even more superfluous when you are craving solutions but only getting half hints buried in repeated scenes.

Unless she has some major importance soon Ruaha was a cool character but I’m not exactly sure what her relevance to the plot was. If she were a walk on character for a single chapter it would make sense. But she stays around past when she was relevant for no real reason I can see other than to get involved with Kerkan. That not-a-sex-scene but so-totally-a-sex-scene between Ruaha and Kerkan was also sort of creepy but I suppose that was the point.

Sekien No Inganock is an interesting game with some serious flaws. It has some very interesting ideas, and imaginative setting, uniquely stylized graphics, and some strong characters.  And that is nothing to scoff at. But the execution of these elements could have been unfolded a bit neater. As I understand the accompanying web novels do quite a bit to clear things up but I will judge the game on what is presented to me in the game itself first. I will probably give my final thought on the game next week after I finally finish it and have some time to think of it as a whole.

A double does of BL this week! I finally finished up the second season of World’s Greatest First Love.

I had stopped because I was feeling a little frustrated with the progress of Ritsu and Masamune. Luckily when I returned we move to looking at other characters in the series.

I enjoyed the one off about Isaka, who we’d only met briefly, and his assistant who met when they were kids.

I was also immensely pleased that finally we got to see more Yukina the bookstore guy and Kisa the editor who were my favorite couple from the first season. Kisa’s insecurity was really felt. But it didn’t go on for too long so it didn’t drag down things.

I thought the main story also wrapped up nicely and with a bit of humor that was sometimes too absent in the middle of the season. Overall, I ended up really happy with the show.

Saint Seiya Omega says that schools out forever with episode 9. Saint Seiya started out going down the normal “go to super hero school and learn to be super” path that modern shonen seems to love. But then in the middle of a tournament arc it decides that both the school arc and tournament arc are lame and decides to blow both of them up at the same time. And then introduce a ninja saint. These were all very wise ideas.

Other than that Saint Seiya Omega has been fairly serviceable. Not the best shonen fighting series but also hardly the worst. The plot has been moving froward at a decent pace and the characters while a bit stock and generally enjoyable. The new-found love story between this mysterious new girl and Koga is amusing in how instant it is but such are shonen shows .

Aquila Yuna actually be an effective female saint is pretty neat. She seems like an equal member of the team as opposed to the low tier girl party member. I will say here whole ripping off her ancient legacy bound mask incident seems rather easily accepted after it happens. AS A FEMALE SAINT YOU MUST WEAR THIS MASK AT ALL TIMES . . . unless you have some important character growth in which case you can forget about all that jazz.

Saint Seiya is hardly a show I rush to watch every week but it entertains me when I get around to it and that is often the best you can ask for in shonen fighting. Hopefully now that they are no longer fighting students we will have more people being punched directly in the heart like the original Saint Seiya.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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One comment

  1. The enormous amount of repetition in Sekien no Inganock makes a lot more sense if you compare the game to the work of Kunihiko Ikuhara. Both authors liberally reference fairy tales, structure their stories around literal rituals that nobody quite understands, feature protagonists who literally cannot lose and frequently end their stories with transcendence. Glance at Inganock’s author’s other work, which liberally references shoujo tropes, and it becomes pretty clear where she’s cribbing from.

    That said, while Inganock’s Utena-esque shtick doesn’t work quite as well in written form, I still find it enchanting and atmospheric and unlike just about every other visual novel I’ve read. It helps that while Inganock is repetitive and contains some of the most half-hearted sex scenes I’ve seen in a visual novel it also reads like fantastically surreal poetry. Many visual novels (even if they have excellent plots) aren’t very well written, but while Inganock’s plot is spotty the writing itself is unlike just about everything else I’ve read.

    Keep in mind, once you finish: reading Inganock again helps IMMENSELY in understanding what is going on, and the web novels add a lot to the ending regarding characters who aren’t addressed. The first couple of chapters of Inganock should make the plot’s inner workings pretty clear once you have enough context to understand them.

    (Also, once you finish Inganock you should probably read Forest. It’s by a different author than Inganock’s but it’s probably the best thing that Liarsoft has ever done, and one of like two visual novels I’ve read that I’d label “literature” in pretentious English major quotes)



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