Ongoing Investigations: Case #172

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.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #144

Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors issue 1 starts with a brief and amusing history of how the school came to be through the bumblings of a not so great villain who was defeated by a totally way better villain who used the name “Gladstone’s” ironically. The rest of the issue introduces us to many of the current students the likes of which cocky Kid Nefarious, awkward Mummy Girl, trouble makers the Skull Brothers, and a bunch of other students and teachers. And it hints that the villains and heroes dynamic isn’t exactly what it seems. While this spend most of its time settling up the story, it still has good looks at characters personalities and stays humorous and fun all the way through knowing just how much to make fun of itself.

There are somethings that you read and you instantly know your opinion on. I hated this or I loved this. You just have a gut reaction that dictates your opinion. Other times you get a more middle of the road reaction and then with a little digestion you can give a thumbs up or down. But then you have a book like Breathe Deeply by Doton Yamaaki. Even after a day of contemplation I can’t tell you if I thought it was good or not. I clearly see the books strengths but I just as clearly see the books weaknesses. They are both equally obvious to me and neither really makes forget about the other. So the best review I can give this book it to put both sides of the coin on the table and let anyone reading decide for themselves which half they consider more important. The main thing is that the book seems to think that subtlety is for losers when it comes to story telling. So when it is doing well its success is as bright as the sun and when it is annoying it is like nails on a chalk board through a sound system and your right next to the speaker that is on MAX. The story is a tale of two boys who fall in love with the same girl who is dying from a heart condition. One is a cold genius the other is a hot-headed punk. When she passes away after declining a transplant for ethical reasons both boys fall into a deep and angry depression in their own way. But they both attempt to find a method of creating an artificial heart that would not require a donor to prevent a similar tragedy. Both men are haunted by the loss of the woman they love but at the same time are irrevocably bound to each other by their loss. There is a lot to like about this book. You have older working adult characters. We have some major flash backs to their childhood but the bulk of the story is about their present day medical research and politics therein. There is also some serious looks at the ethics of research, transplants, organ donors, and medical politics. There are also some solid character study and romantic moments. The problem in Breathe Deeply never attempts to do anything in subdued tones. It throws the medical issues at you with the force of a rail gun round.  It is obvious what the authors stance on the issue of organ donors is except for 1 scene at the end that sort of tempers his view. Also everything is soap opera levels of the theatrics. Everyone has dark secrets that they spring on the rest of cast at the worst possible moment, drunk dads are always drinking and abusive, anytime anyone learns a weakness of another character they immediately intact a fiendish blackmail scene, and every conversation is some sort of game be it political or emotional. There is even beating and interrogation by a group of doctors using sodium thiopental. The problem with that is that Breathe Deeply wants you to take it very seriously. When Team Medical Dragon does the same thing I am OK with it because it mostly want to be a crazy medical drama with action and boobs. If you think about some medical issues as well than all the better. Breath Deeply wants you to take its love story and its ethical concerns with a somber gravity. But it is hard to do so with the theatrics surrounding them. The art is very seinen and the characters are fairly realistic looking which reinforces the feeling the series wishes to give off. I can’t really tell you if you will like this book or not. I am still not sure what my feelings are. But it is only one book long and is not like a good deal of the shonen and shojo in the English market today. Take what I have said and see if it sound interesting to you. There is a lot to enjoy and just as much to turn you off.

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