Sunday, June 29, 2003

  • THE THING: This game: Odin's Ravens.
          A two-player game.
              A strategy and racing game
                  with lots of choices.
    This is part of the Kosmos 2-player games series -- I have a few of them, and they are all set up just right for 2 players. They all are designed with a quick 2-player game in mind. The ones I have are mostly card games, with a lot of strategy and variety. Odin's Ravens looks like another good one.

    This is a card game, and there are 4 mini-decks that are used in the game. One deck is the one that makes the "board" where the play takes place -- they are cards with icons of different types of land on them -- each hard has two icons. When you play, you sit across from each other, so that the two icons form a path for each player -- each player has a different path to take.

    Two other decks are the cards for playing the game -- they are identical, and each player gets one. The majority of the cards have icons which match the icons on the play board -- the majority of play has an almost Candy Land-style simplicity to it: if you want to move over a mountain space, you have to play a card with a picture of a mountain on it. You can alternatively play a pair of cards to move -- a pair acts sort of like a wild card. This is a brilliant way to keep from having to wait for a single card forever -- some games keep you just waiting for one or two cards to show up. There are also Odin cards which allow you to change to terrain - to help you or slow your opponent, or to move an opponent back, or you forward, or to place an obstacle on the path.

    At the end of your turn, you have the option of making the path longer. If you are behind, you can try to make the end distant to allow you a chance to catch up. The problem with this strategy: you get more points the further you are ahead, so lengthening the course could lengthen your opponent's lead.

    Also, you get to put cards away into a little stash pile to be used later. This allows you to grab more cards to use for the next turn, and can as much as double the amount of cards you can play per turn. There is some strategy there, because you can only play from this extra stack of cards in the exact opposite order you lay them down (a true 'stack') -- it takes some furious thinking ahead (and the board can be changed around on you in the meantime!), but it can pay off big-time.

    The fourth mini-deck is a tiny little one, called the Magic Way cards -- there are only 6 cards. These each have 2 pictures on them, showing what cards you can play to grab one of the cards. Whoever has the most of them at the end of the round gets a 3 point bonus. It doesn't sound like much, but it gives you the chance to earn some points and use some otherwise useless cards if you are a bunch behind. This deck seemed kind of silly at first, but it can help out a little in an otherwise frustrating situation.

    I've only played this a few times (I've only owned the game for about 3 and a half hours as of writing this), but I can definitely see some great re-playability. It has different startegy each time... and a round can go by in just a few minutes. The rules are easy to learn, but allow for some very deep strategic play. Luck plays a big part, but I can see someone learning the strategies and possibilities and winning consistently with a consistent strategy.

  • THE THING: This movie: Ghost World.
          I shouldn't have liked
              a girl-coming-of-age film
                  but I kind of did.
    This was a movie borrowed from the library... a free rental is always good!

    I wasn't sure about it:
    Things against it: it was a movie about 2 girls who just graduated high school. Also, (though this is rather pompous) I've never heard of it.
    Things going for it: it had Steve Buscemi, and Thora Birch (she was in American Beauty -- I didn't remenber her name at the time).

    It turned out to have a sort of Harold and Maude feel to it. Just a little bit. It was not nearly as quirky and goofy.

    It was certainly grabbed my attention. The acting was pleasant, and the characters were not outrageous enough to be annoying -- just different enough to be interesting.

    The story goes like this: Enid and Rebecca tend to enjoying annoying people, and they find a desperate personal ad from someone looking for a person he met in an airport briefly. They call him up, pretending to be her, and get him to show up at a restaurant as a preactical joke, and to just see who he is. Enid ends up being intrigued by him, and befriends him. Things get a little out of her control...

    Now, what is it with me and endings?! I guess I just get too caught up in movies and just want more! The same happened in this movie -- it ended on a sort of oddly uninteresting and unresolved note. Just ignore that sentence, it's just me, I think...

Final Score on the Chris Worth Scale: $4.95. For one that I saw for FREE, I feel like I got a bargain.

  • THE THING: This game: Diceland (specifically, the Deep White Sea edition.)
          Quite a bit of luck,
              some assembly required.
                  Quite replayable.
    James Ernest has made a nifty original game with Diceland. As of the writing of this, there are 4 sets available -- The one I bought called Deep White Sea, two different sets which take place in space, and one called Ogre.

    They all seem to have similar rulesets, with some interesting changes between each. Each set is independently playable, but it seems that you can add different sets together. I only have the one set, so I can't speak to this very much.

    Let's talk about the game: first of all, the dice are made of shiny card-stock paper. They come in flat sheets -- you have to punch them out and assemble them. I really like that part, actually. It does take some time investment, but it's kind of nifty in an origami sort of way. The dice are really much sturdier than you might imagine. There are 25 all together; 5 teams of 5 dice. The Deep White Sea set has 5 different teams to play with -- the game is originally meant to be played with 2 players, but you can easily play it with more... there's enough dice to actually play with 5 players, though that might be a little crowded on the table. The dice are good-sized - they're about 2 inches on a side. That's because each face has a bunch of information -- it has a picture of your character, and describes that character's abilities.

    You roll a die to put your character into play -- the way it lands tells how strong the character is, how far it is from death, its attacking and defensive capabilities, and who else on the table it can attack. Most of the dice can only "see" in a certain derection, depending on how it lands. So, if you throw a die, and it lands so that the point is staring off the edge of the table, there is a good chance it's a little useless. Some dice can "see" in all directions...

    They each have different attacks and defenses. I just pulled one out whose name is Jarik, and she is an assassin, who has many attacks that use poison. If a character is poisoned, it takes extra damage each turn. Many characters (mostly robots) are immune from poison! There are a bunch of varieties of attacks and defenses of this sort -- it's pretty common in role-playing and collectible card games. I'm sure you sort of get the idea...

    This is really a game for role-playing and card-playing game geeks. Which means I love it. I've only played it a couple times, but it is quite obvious that there is an equal amount of skill and strategy involved. The damage system is so wild -- each die has a marker on each face that you push on if it takes damage. The sides of the dice are numbered 1-8, and the push takes you to the next lower numbered face. If you take damage when you are on side 1, your character "dies" (it's actually only out of commission for one turn).

    Each of the characters has a definitely feel for it -- the way it attacks and defends is unique. You get attached to your team members and develop favorites.

    The character art is tremendous. The rules are easy once you've played 2 or 3 times, and the interactivity of tossing your character into the fray and anticipation and axiety associated with how it lands makes it an engaging game.

    I recommend it highly. It's relatively inexpensive ($15). I've only played a 2-person game, but I could see how a multi-player game could be exciting, as well. I intend to get my money's worth out of this game. And I'll probably end up getting the other sets, as well...