Posts Tagged fantasy

Fantasy Football

I can’t really do a review about fantasy football because (a) I am not a particularly good fan of football (in that, I have watched some games, and I have watched the Superbowl, and I have attended some games, but I am not invested in the sport), and (b) I have never participated in a fantasy football league.  So instead, I ask the reader: have you had good experiences with fantasy football?  What compels you about it as a game?  What about in relation to the sport?  Are they separable?

One issue I have with team sports is that I never really feel invested in the team.  I have felt very invested in the people competing, especially with individual sports and when my friends (or I!) are on a particular team, but I can’t seem to find the “fan bone” that would make me devoted to one in particular.  The closest I came to team devotion was living in Boston when the Red Sox went nuclear during 2003 and 2004, and even then I feel like I was held up by the tide of fandom and not really a part of it.

Lee and I were chatting about fantasy football after work / during dinner, and I got the sense that I am missing out on some interesting social gaming… not to mention the system he outlined is kind of like build-your-own-team.  And if I care about individuals, and not teams, then surely a team of my own construction from individuals I care about would be the solution?  I think I have commented before that I don’t really feel like I can connect with friends on the sports axis, and maybe this is a step in an interesting direction.

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Review: Small Gods

Now, I am no particular Terry Pratchett fan.  (Wow, he is famous enough that I got a spelling auto-correct for his last name!)  I had only read Night Watch previously, because it was on a bookshelf and I was in need of a book.  That one was alright, nothing special, and I didn’t really understand why so many people – especially my roommate Sam – thought Pratchett’s Discworld books were so amazing.  But Sam, rational thinker and arguer that he is, convinced me to read Small Gods, holding it up as a better (maybe the best) example of Pratchett’s work in a single book.

I love it.  Small Gods is wonderfully irreverent, while at the same time saying so much more about faith, religion and spirituality than many other texts designed for that purpose ever do.  The characters are compelling, the integration of the story with the details of the world is excellent (and Pratchett’s world is quite impressive, and so it is even more impressive that it doesn’t overshadow the story), and it’s got quite a few laugh-out-loud funny moments.  Before Small Gods, I was dubious at the prospect of “humorous fantasy,” which is the genre I have always thought of Pratchett belonging to, but now I am a believer.

I’m not sure that Small Gods made me want to read the rest of the Discworld books, so well-contained was its story, but it does leave the seed of interest in my mind where before they was disapproval.  So that must also be seen as a success.  I would definitely recommend Small Gods to anyone who is interested in fantasy and likes stories that make them think.

Overall: A
Balance of Philosophy and Fantasy: A+

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Review: Kingsburg

Kingsburg is one of your classic German resource-management strategy board games.  Dylan introduced me to it; I bought it recently while browsing for other stuff at a game store, because I remembered I enjoyed it.  Like many games of its ilk, it takes an hour or two to play, it involves a lot of fiddly resource pieces, and you build up and acquire victory points.  Unlike other games, it has a sweet core mechanic that I am very impressed with: dice roll drafting (explained below).  Although the game is kind of annoying to teach (there’s a lot of information to take in on your personal stuff-to-build card), it’s got pretty good pacing and a lot of fun moments.

The dice roll draft works as follows: all players roll three six-sided dice of their own color.  Then there are spaces on the board, 1-18, which have resource icons on them (they are advisors you are trying to influence, so like a Merchant, a Wizard, a Duchess, etc.).  You “draft” a space (take it and nobody else can) by putting any number of dice on it that add up to exactly the number shown.  So with my 6-5-4 roll, I could take the 9 space with the 4-5, or the 15 space with all the dice, or the 6 space with just the 6, etc.  You keep going around the table until everyone’s out of dice (or can’t place anywhere).  There are neat mechanics in game – extra dice, bump the number up/down one, get a one-time +2 chit – that influence the roll in interesting, strategic and fun ways.

The downside is that this super fun core mechanic is accompanied by a sheet of stuff to spend resources on, that isn’t particularly compelling in my opinion.  Ostensibly, the structures make you (a) better at dice-drafting, (b) better at doing the regular-interval combat mechanic, or (c) get points, but they kind of feel haphazard and they are very hard to keep track of in-game.  I would prefer a different system for spending resources that integrates better with the dice-drafting part of the game – maybe everything makes you better at drafting, there are more spaces, and the primary way to get points is via the draft?

Regardless, the game has many compelling parts (there’s even fun in griefing your opponents by picking a spot they want right in front of them!) and if you are into strategy board games, I recommend picking it up!

Overall: B+
Core Mechanic (Dice-Drafting): A
Fiddliness/Wordiness: C+
Gold Icon That Looks Like a Lemon So Everyone Calls It Lemons: A++ (thanks Dylan!)

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Review: Preacher

I recently reread the graphic novel series Preacher, and I still think it’s pretty incredible. Preacher is the story of a preacher (durr), Jesse, who has lost his faith… right around the time a being of unimaginable power, Genesis, inhabits him.  Genesis grants him the power of the Word of God – when he wants to, he speaks and anyone who hears him must obey.  The story of the series is how Jesse hunts down God to confront him about a number of things, but mostly to demand answers about why God lets the world be so shitty.  The story is very compelling, and the characters have a lot to identify with.  The first part of the second compilation is just dynamite – it’s like a 33 Minutes from Battlestar Galactica, or a Faraday Cage from Anathem.

It has flaws: a lot of the pacing doesn’t work for me, because there are long sections of people talking in a diner, for example, rather than resolving those issues (the ones in the conversations had) through the action or arc of the plot.  That’s not to say that some resolution works that way — and when it does, it is spectacular.  Preacher has some scenes, and some panels, that are among the most visually engaging, viscerally gripping, and disturbing/terrifying/beautiful things I have ever read.

Preacher asks for a bit of faith – unironically – and suspension of disbelief, and the progression through the plot is a little shaky, but the series as a whole is unforgettable and has a lot of good stuff in it.  It captured a large chunk of my friends our Junior year of college, and is nothing if not epic in its scale and scope.  I’d recommend it if (a) you don’t take religion too seriously, (b) you appreciate a high-minded story that has its fair share of low-brow humor, and (c) you aren’t squeamish.

Overall: B+
Jesse’s Word of God Recommendation: Two thumbs up.
Balance of “Big Issues” with hilarity: Good

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Review: Way of Kings

To kick off review month, I’ll talk about a book I read during the course of last month and really loved, but couldn’t talk about (because I was too busy praising my wonderful friends!) –Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.  Funny story: I was on the plane on my way to Amsterdam, delayed, when I decided to browse for books on my iPad to read on the flight.  It turned out that very day Way of Kings was released, and since I really enjoy Sanderson’s fantasy novels, I picked it up.

Way of Kings is a fantasy epic, first in a series – you are probably familiar with this style of book from Wheel of Time, Song of Ice and Fire or even Harry Potter (kind of).  Sanderson is an amazing world builder; Kelly, Laura, Nik, Rebecca and I joke that he actually is just creating role playing game systems and the novel(s) are secondary.  There were three major things from Way of Kings that I found sweet, that tie together well and are the reasons I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy: the development of the world across the novel, the “magic” in the world and the descent into fantasy.

Sanderson does a really good job of pacing the reader’s view into his world as the story progresses.  Some of this is flashback, some is alternate character perspective, but primarily it is his excellent show-don’t-tell style that increases your understanding of the nature of his fantasy world as you learn more about what’s going on with the characters and plot.  As he is doing this, it shifts slowly but surely from what you might consider “swords and sorcery” fantasy into something more more complex and deep: a kind of magic rooted in how the world’s history evolved, and kind of a “hide in plain sight” model where the obvious magic obscures the rarer and more secret “actual magic.”

Add to this a really neat way in which Sanderson moves you from the stuff is identifiable fantasy tropes (soldiers, knights on horses, magic swords) into stuff that is wholely his own (regular mystical storms, crablike beasts of burden, visible spirits that represent emotion) and you have a recipe for an excellent book – and hopefully an excellent series!  Really my only complaint is that I can’t afford to be waiting for another series to come out with its next book! 😛

Overall: A
Engrossment Level with World, Story, Characters: B+
Sanderson Factor for “Roleplayingsystemability”: A+

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