The Dork Den Blog

Review: Isola #1

Isola #1

Review by: Anthony

Ah yes, my favorite coined term Imagocalypse continues with Isola #1, a new fantasy comic written by Brenden Fletcher made famous in recent months by Motor Crush, yet another, but unique image ongoing series. He’s also done some other cool things like Batgirl and Gotham Academy. Anyway, this comic is total eye candy, and like most other Image #1’s you take one look at the inside of the comic book and you’re like “Yup I have to read this.” seriously, this comic book is gorgeous. As much as I rag on Image for their oversaturation of of these comics I can’t deny how appealing to the eye they seemingly always are upon first glance. That being said, does Isola belong in the backlog of my graphic novel list I’ll probably never be able to finish as it grows faster than I can shrink it, or is this a comic I’ll explore further with single issues? My subscription list shrinks all the time as I grow tired of filling my short boxes too fast - so only a select few great titles don’t get relegated to the cheaper graphic novel form. Art won’t carry Isola to victory, even if it gets it close, so hopefully Image delivers again with Isola #1.

We’re thrown into a fantasy world we don’t know a much about, which is a growing trend among these fantasy stories, and we quickly meet Rook, who you can assume is some kind of royal guard, who’s acting as an escort for the Queen of the land, or at least some kind of land. The Queen, for reasons unknown has fallen under some kind of evil spell or curse and has been transformed into a black tiger with blue stripes. It’s somewhat unclear whether or not the Queen can really understand her situation, or even understands our main protagonist, but funny dialogue ensues as Rook tries to communicate with the stubborn and lazy big kitty cat. It’s apparent that the two are on a secret journey of sorts to a land named, ding ding: Isola. As they journey through the perils of a jungle-type wasteland, their relationship keeps their moods uplifted and their preparation keeps Rook’s sword sharp.

First of all, while the cover of this comic book is wonderful to look at, the title of the comic is completely unreadable. Maybe that’s a minute detail to criticize, but googling this comic book originally was actually difficult because the font of the title is so unreadable. It looks like Jsoia or Jsdla, no joke. That’s a problem. Hopefully they’ll fix it or they’re going to be in trouble. The story itself doesn't have much weight to it yet. There’s a lot of questions and little answered in this first issue. In the case of a good comic, writers can get away with that annoying trait, and like I mentioned earlier it’s a quickly growing trend among these stories. Luckily the quirky personality of the Queen in lion form and the relationship between these two main characters, as well as the art carry the otherwise confusing and overly unexplanatory first issue. I can’t really say whether I think there’s something truly special here. With comics like Descender and Diesel, it was apparent from the very beginning the comic book would be a hit. This one, is a little harder to tell. However, there’s a great creative team with an obviously fleshed out story with a lot of issues ahead of them, so keep your eyes on Isola, and we’ll see where it goes from here.

4 / 5

Review: Insider


Bluffing games feel so good when you win. It doesn't even matter if they're good.

Not that Insider isn't good. Or that it is good. Or... well... hm.

Insider is a four to eight player bluffing game that strips away all the extra roles that started making their way into games like Werewolf, Coup, and The Resistance, leaving you with only one word master, one insider, and a bunch of scrubs. Like Werewords, it's based on the Twenty Questions idea—the master and insider know the word, and everyone gets to ask the master yes/no/I don't know questions to figure out what the word is. The insider is on a separate team from everyone else; if the word isn't solved, everyone loses, but once it is, everyone has to guess the insider. Then either the insider wins or the master and scrubs do.

Everyone gets a secret role; the master flips his up immediately, while everyone else keeps theirs face down. The word is determined by flipping a card with six words on it, then using the number on the back of the next card to decide which word on the list will be used. It feels like they chose six because of six-sided dice, which makes me wonder if some earlier variant used a die to determine the word, but it doesn't matter much. The system's fine as long as everyone's clear on how it works (we had a minor issue with that). Everyone closes their eyes, the master looks at the word, closes his eyes, the insider looks at the word, closes her eyes, and then everyone opens their eyes. No slapping the table required since nobody should need to move to see the cards, so that's a positive on the bluffing game part.

Flip the five minute hourglass, and you're off. Everyone asks questions to work their way toward the answer. Having a master who knows how to communicate is critical despite the fact they can't use anything other than yes, no, or I don't know for answers, because it's almost a given that at some point questions will be asked which give the master pause. Some questions are very open to interpretation, and it's up to the master to answer questions honestly while using the judgment call ones to guide the players towards the correct answer. For example, 'is it hard?' is easy if the object is a rock or a pillow, but what if it's an arm? Yes and no are both reasonable answers, but a good word master will give the response that he thinks will lead the arc of the questioning back towards the correct word. Likewise, the insider should nudge questioning back on to the right path without going so dramatically into left field that there would be no reason for her to ask a given question without being the insider.

At the end, assuming the word is guessed, sussing out the insider is all that's left. This is where the game got wonky for us, but it's not difficult once you know how it works; the instructions are translated from Japanese, and the flowchart they have which explains the process is not very good. All they needed was a short list.

  1. Everyone votes on whether or not whoever got the word right is the insider.

  2. If a majority says yes, they win if they got it right and lose if they got it wrong.

  3. If a majority says no and the person was the insider, the insider wins.

  4. If a majority says no and the person was a scrub, then everyone votes for someone else. Whether or not whoever gets the most votes was the insider determines who wins.

When you know how it works, you can understand the flowchart, but when you haven't done it before, step-by-step instructions would be much more useful.

The actual process creates one intriguing twist: the priority the insider should place on getting someone else to guess the word. That guarantees the first vote is on a different person, which significantly improves the insider's chance of winning. This is especially important in a smaller game; with four players, only three can be the insider, and there are theoretically two chances to guess who it is. Those are pretty terrible odds, and you need whatever advantage you can get.

That said, the game still doesn't scale down particularly well. It can play with as few as four, but you really want six to eight. You could probably have fun with nine or ten; as long as nobody has to sit so far away they won't be able to see the cards as the insider, it's worth trying. More than that may make the insider too difficult to guess, but suffice to say this is a larger-scale party game. Just make sure somebody has the rules down cold before you start.

Score: Six scrubs out of eight players.

Review Bloodborne #1

Bloodborne #1

Review by: Anthony

Bloodborne is a tough beast to tackle. Those that have played and loved the Souls games know that these games are little to none on giving its readers easily understood and handheld storyline. The stories of the Souls games and Bloodborne are hidden within the text descriptions of various items, scrolls and documents found around the map, and the cryptic monologues of the extremely sparse NPCs that roam these game worlds. That’s really it. Cutscenes are few and far between, and offer little to absolutely no dialogue to further the story. Rather, the souls games are an experience, and something to dive further into online and through your own homework if you’re to truly understand the storylines at play. That alone makes the idea of a comic book version of the story, or even a comic book story simply set in the Bloodborne universe a difficult task to take on. Titan Comics has done this stuff before, they’re well known for their works on franchises like the Souls games, so I have some faith in their writing talents to take on and make a good comic, but Bloodborne is one of my favorite games of all time, and I take pride in the amount of time and effort I’ve put into knowing the complex and multidimensional story of the game, because I think it’s incredible. So, it’s going to take some convincing to believe that this comic book is worth existing, and I’m ready to be convinced.

Bloodborne #1 begins in Old Yharnam, a large town now run down and barren - left with only beasts of the scourge, corrupted humans that have changed and transformed into deadly monsters of the night. If you’ve played through the early stages of the video game, this area is quite recognizable, and the writers make the smart choice of throwing you into a familiar world. The Hunter, the main protagonist of the story, is stuck in a constantly repeating nightmare, forced to begin again if he/she dies. The only way to escape from this endless loop is to find Paleblood, a mysterious substance that you as the player must go on a journey to find, to “transcend the hunt”. It’s difficult to really discuss much about this comic without deep diving into the story, but what’s surprising to me is that the creative team on this really do expect you to have some knowledge of the underlying story going on in the source material. Characters mention locations and other characters not easily remembered or discovered within the game, and that’s super cool in itself. The Hunter is clad in the recognizable starting suit of the game along with the pistol and the Saw Cleaver, also beginning items you retrieve after your first death, which is another nod toward its readers. The comic does quickly veer away from the regular story path and begins to take on its own story, likely taking place quite some time before the events of the actual video game, considering the amount of people still alive and the number of hunters roaming Yharnam, which is otherwise completely void of sane life.

The writers of this comic are obviously big fans of the game, and they’ve done their homework on the complex and deep lore of the game, which is immediately refreshing. For obvious reasons the writers have to step away from the quiet nature of the game, and in these 30 pages there’s already way more dialogue than in the first few hours of the game. This is always a tad jarring to me, and it’s something the Dark Souls comics did as well. It’s a bit of a departure from one of the core aspects of the From Software games, but probably a necessary sacrifice. However, that does beg the question of whether these comics should exist in general, with the Souls games being held in such high regard, you have to ask whether the necessary departure from some of the core aspects still justify a comic book iteration. That being said, I’m always going to support comic books, and I’ll always appreciate new Bloodborne material. All in all the comic book is okay, and it’s an interesting start to something that could develop into a cool prequel type of story. The comic book exceeds when it pays homage to the game and nods to its fans, so as long as it’s doing that, it’ll carry the comic book by itself.

3 / 5

Review: 7 Wonders Duel

7 Wonders Duel

By: Dave

More Wonders per capita: how we truly make America great again.

7 Wonders Duel is a few years old now, but it still sells, and it's earned those sales by being a legitimately good scaled-down version of the original. Part of the reason is that the designers didn't feel compelled about making it look like 7 Wonders. They remembered the first rule of spin-offs: all you need is the name on the label and the theme in the box. The game itself (and this goes for movies, TV shows, any type of entertainment) doesn't have to work the same way at all.

You'll recognize all the bits and pieces from 7 Wonders. There are three ages, card drafts, coins, differently colored buildings you put on your side for resources and bonuses, and the Wonders you build for extra bonuses. However, they all go together differently. First, there's no passing cards; you set up the all the cards for each age in a particular arrangement, with some face up and some down. From there you pick one that is both face up and not covered in any way by another card. Early on there are some resources you can get for free, but most have a cost. In the original, you give money to the people you buy resources from, but here you can pay the bank for a base cost of two coins per resource. If your opponent collects some of that resource and you have to buy it, you still don't pay them; you just pay more money to the bank. In this way, coin management remains an important component of play.

Some card types work differently, mainly science. There's no more bonuses for sets of science symbols at the end of the game. Instead, if you get a pair of one symbol, you can take a token that gives you some sort of fair to extremely powerful bonus (depending on how the game is playing out), and if you get six different symbols, you just straight up win the game. Likewise, military doesn't score you points on a per-age basis; there's a track that lets you push a shield back and forth, wiping out some amount of your opponent's money if you push it far enough (this can happen twice per player), or win the game outright if you get it to the end of the track.

For the rest: blue cards were always just points, so they're not particularly different. Brown and silver cards are still the same resource types. Yellow cards offer some different bonuses (ie. 1 coin for a given resource, which also can't be increased by the opponent holding that resource).

Wonders work similarly to the original, in that you draft a card, then flip it face down under the Wonder and spend the resources necessary to build it. Some of the rewards are different, however, most notably the ability to take an extra turn and the ability to break something your opponent has (a resource or some money). In addition, there are four Wonders per player, but only seven can be built per game, meaning more emphasis must often be put on getting them completed, especially if your opponent has some with extra turns and can theoretically knock them out back to back before you can respond.

Spoilers were at the start, but once again, 7 Wonders Duel lives up to the name. Highly recommended for couples who haven't found time to go see their friends anymore, you know who you are, you poor sods.

Score: Seven Wonders, a marketplace, and two plazas out of all that plus a caravan and a bar where the people in the caravan get so drunk they forget to set up their tent the next day.

Review: Action Comics #1000

Action Comics #1000

Review by: Anthony

The concept of Action Comics #1000 holds a lot of sentimental and historical value to comic fans around the world. It’s somewhat crazy and amazing that after 80 years of Superman he still exists on this pedestal of truly being THE superhero. It’s a universally recognized name. Everyone that hears it can picture that flowing cape and those red tights, and that image will never fade. However, lot of people dislike Superman as a character, and that’s understandable. He’s extremely strong, morally unambiguous, impenetrable, and if written badly, often boring. In a modern society that prefers the anti-hero: the more human, emotionally susceptible character, Superman sometimes struggles. Gone is the preference for the Richard Donner Superman movies, and instead characters like Batman who walk the lines of vigilantism and moral questionability, or parody characters like Deadpool who completely wash the lines away altogether hold the reign as kings of the superhero world. People cheered in the masses for the Christopher Nolan Batman movies that followed a dark and gritty path of the hero, and that’s okay, that’s just how society evolves and tastes change. But for all these reasons are why I love Superman, and it’s why we’ll always hold the original Superman movies and the origins of Superman as a character in such incredibly high regard. Superman is the hero that we all need to find our roots when we’ve strayed too far. His moral unambiguity is something that we can always rely on. He’s the character that saves and helps, no matter what, and we can always look to Superman to do what's right. That’s why he will always be the best, because when you’re a little kid fighting invisible monsters, Superman is who you’re pretending to be. He’s the character you point at in the sky, and cheer for when he saves the day. He leaves no one behind and believes in you when no one else will. He’s the true original superhero, and he will always have that title.

When the New 52 launched in 2011, DC tried to do something new with Superman, as they did with a ton of the main like DC characters. The DC execs and creators tried to shake things up a little, create a potentially weaker, young and vulnerable Superman more susceptible to the evils of the world, and for a while that worked. The characters had rebegan their hero careers. New origins could be told, and friendships could be reestablished and grown in new and exciting ways, specifically the famous partnership between Superman and Batman. Superman felt like a new character again for a short while, but the edgier less morally pure version of the hero began to falter a little bit, and the famously campish comics like All Star Superman had a bit of a rekindling. Nostalgia called for the return of the Superman everyone had grown up with, and perhaps that’s what DC had in mind all along, because in recent months they’ve moved toward returning to the roots of what DC was, and with it, the return of the Superman we’re all more familiar with. Action Comics #1000 is the true and faithful return to those roots. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s recent run on Supes (Which quickly became one of my favorite comic book runs of all time) really set the precedent  for that return-to-roots shift, and this oversized comic is the solidification of that movement. #1000 is a culmination and a celebration of Superman as a character, both who he is now and how he’s developed over the past 80 years. There are a ton of stories written by new and old comic book artists and writers jam packed in here, both setting up new and future storylines and paying homage to everything that Superman means to us as a character, and it really is a joy to read. Peter Tomasi, Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns, Paul Dini, Jim Lee, and Brad Meltzer are just some of the crazy talented people that put their work into making this comic, and it’s a really rewarding experience.

For obvious reasons this comic book has a certain collectability to it, but it’s more than just that. It’s a major milestone in the world of comic books, and no matter how you look at it Action Comics #1000 should be celebrated and appreciated across the entire spectrum of comic books, Marvel, DC and Independant alike. So here’s to 1000 more, and the hopefully undying future of the comic book medium.

5 / 5

Review: Castles of Burgundy

The Castles of Burgundy

By: Dave

Burgundy is hexagonally-shaped district in northern France, laced with farms that grow six-sided dice and dye factories whose sole purpose is to add differentiation to the dice they buy from the farms. From there, those dice are packaged and shipped in large boxes to little boys and girls, who then give those boxes to their mothers and fathers because the games inside are way too frigging complicated for them to figure out, and they want to catch more Pokemon anyway.

The Castles of Burgundy is a game that can be viewed as an opposite to Rising Sun—one where the game clearly came first and, even if they had planned to use this medieval theme, they could have changed that theme if it didn't really fit the game. It's also a classic, despite being less than ten years old; sitting at the edge of BGG's top ten games of all time after this long means you've done something right. (Of course, doing something right means expanding on it ad nauseum; this review will only cover the base game, but there are nine expansions.)

Castles is representative of its time in board gaming's evolution: it does not have any reliance on pure dice rolling, a la Settlers of Catan, but neither does it eschew randomness altogether like many present-day strategic games. It's of that moment where risk management was popular, handing players dice but offering methods of manipulating those dice that could take almost all of the pure chance out of the game. \

Each of the game's five phases consists of five turns, so you have twenty-five turns to play with. Each turn, you roll two dice, with which you can do a handful of things: pick up a tile from the common board, play a tile to your estate, sell goods, or throw a die away in exchange for two workers. The first three all require your action to match the roll of the die; you can only take a tile from a space matching one of your dice, play to a space matching one of your dice, or sell the goods that match one of your dice. Likewise, workers allow you to nudge a die up or down by one, so if you have a die that's can't get you anything you need, you can use it to pick up the resources that let you manipulate dice later. It's not a great turn, but it ensures no die is ever completely wasted.

That's all you need to know to play, but playing well is an entirely different matter. There are a dozen different tiles that can hit the board, and that doesn't include the one-off rulebreaker (knowledge) tiles. All of them have a different effect; although their strengths are pretty well balanced, what gives you the most opportunity to score is tiles that let you trigger bonus actions you would normally need to use a die on.

For example, if you place a church on your board, you can take a mine, castle, or knowledge tile from the common board. That's one die saved, plus you can get it from any location without needing to roll the right number. Likewise, a city hall lets you add any tile you're holding to your estate without needing to roll the number for the space you're putting it in. Castles let you take any action for free, as though you had a third die with the result of your choice. Banks, meanwhile, give you two silverlings; buying tiles from the center area of the common board can only be done by paying two silverlings, and that's a bonus action on your turn, so banks effectively give you a free action as well.

Tiles that don't give you bonus actions tend to offer more points or other utility bonuses. Animals, for example, can be very lucrative if you get a good-sized pasture filled with as many of the same type as you can; watchtowers are a simple 4 VP per, but if you also get the knowledge tile that offers an extra four per at the end of the game, they're fantastic. Ships grab market goods, which are useful, but also move you ahead in the turn order; this sometimes has to be done carefully, though, as the person who reaches the same number of ships as you goes ahead of you in turn order. Boarding houses give you four workers, which don't spam actions but make sure you can do what you want on later turns. And knowledge tiles offer all sorts of effects; dice manipulation tiles are ones you want to grab early, point bonuses later when you know what will be most efficient (or what you most want to keep away from your opponents).

Of course, there are bonus points for being the first or second person to finish all of your tiles of a certain type, so that's a consideration above and beyond simply doing the most efficient thing every turn. Choices!

The reason this game is so classic is that it's so balanced. I've sat and annoyed the hell out of my opponents, who were very nice about it all the same, by going deep into the tank on some turns after somebody grabs the one thing I need and I don't have a backup plan. Advantageous moves are not obvious; they have to be built on top of what you've done previously. If your most advantageous move goes away, everything looks the same, because everything is the same. It can be paralyzing, but in the best way: the options are all things you want to do, rather than all things you want to avoid, leaving you to choose the least bad option.

There's definitely a learning curve; veteran gamers will probably feel comfortable partway through the game, since there are so many turns, but it's not something to introduce to casual or new board gamers unless you know they're ok with a game that has a lot of knowledge to sift through. Giving yourself the ability to take almost anything you need because your dice manipulation is strong creates an easier path forward, but unlike many games, there's a real opportunity cost involved—getting related tiles, or workers, takes turns you might otherwise have been able to spend on building your estate, and this is a game where you could always use another turn to get something done.

It's a classic for a reason. Play it.

Score: Nine castles, leaving the tenth to the filthy English.

Review: Hardback


Review by: Dave

Hardback is a game like Paperback, made by the same people as Paperback, and described on BGG as a prequel to Paperback.

Cool, cool, and... what?

Hardback is a close thematic sequel—prequel—some damn -quel to Paperback, so if you've played that game you'll understand the basics of this one. Players begin with a deck of ten cards possessing one letter each, draw five per turn, and spell whatever words they can with those cards. Those cards earn you money, with which you buy other cards that can earn more money and have special abilities. Where Paperback had decks specifically set up for each value of card you could buy, Hardback uses the more usual random tableau drawn from the deck, with the ability to wipe the whole board if there are four of a single type (more on that later) or four which cost six cents and up (to avoid a high-cost glut slowing the game to a crawl). Otherwise the play cards -> buy cards -> reshuffle discards deckbuilder style is the same.

What's different is pretty much everything else. Paperback was a great game for people who liked having a word game with the flexibility of deckbuilding gameplay and wild cards over the stolidness of classic Scrabble. Although the biggest pain in the ass about the game was cleaning everything up into their separate piles, the relatively small decks of each value created a certain sameness to the game after numerous plays. In addition, the books you bought for points double as wild cards potentially created an extra quirk of strategy, in general people would just grab books when money allowed and there wasn't a particularly good card on the board to buy. Then the expansion space bar, which allowed two words on a turn, made getting nine and ten letter bonuses a little too easy, but it probably exists because it was pretty hard to reach those lengths without it.

In other words, a number of small things that chipped away at an otherwise excellent game. Hardback fixes them all.

Well, changes. It feels like fixes if you didn't like those things. Let's go down the line.

  • Any card can be used as a wild.

This is enormous, and it makes the entire game. When playing early turns with your starting deck, it's mostly a question of what five-letter word you can make, and how many wilds will you need to do it. Cards are made wild by flipping them face down when you spell the word. You don't get the money or points on it, but if it lets you score more on your other cards, you can just go ahead and do it. Paperback took some out of the letter-pull luck that can make people crazy playing Scrabble; Hardback removes it completely. You can, with the resources available, play twelve letters in all wilds and just dare someone to take it from you.

Which brings up critical change number two.

  • The ink system.

Do you remember the cubes from Paperback? You could be forgiven if not. Throw out your hand to get a cube worth one cent on a future turn? What levels of desperation would be required to do that? What would have had to go wrong? They weren't even bad, per se, just pointless. Hardback's ink system does two things: it lets players strategize beyond simply looking at the most expensive cards they can afford, and it makes sure nobody ever wastes money on a turn.

Black ink costs one cent, and you can buy as many per turn as you can afford. Using one black ink lets you draw an extra card. This is the only way to draw more than five per turn, which means if you're going for a twelve, you have to have seven black ink. However, it's not simply seven free draws; you place the card face up and have to use its letter—no turning it into a wild. There's a major press-your-luck aspect to these draws, because you can end up with extremely difficult-to-use combinations.

And thus, white ink. White ink (or remover) is only earned by playing cards which allow you to take one from the supply. If you draw a card with black ink, white ink allows you to pick it up into your hand and use it as a normal card. So, if you just want to draw an extra card, that requires one black ink and one white ink. Cards that grant remover aren't extremely common, and you rarely are able to trash cards out of your deck, so it can take most of a game to pile up enough remover to ensure you'll be able to make a 10+ letter word.

Personal experience suggests that playing a twelve-letter word with five wild cards after blowing seven black ink and four white on a single turn doesn't feel like you snuck around the point of a word game. It feels awesome.

Smaller changes:

  • Starting decks contain eight standard cards and two randoms, rather than the same ten for everyone. Verdict: Reasonable.

  • Purchased cards only have one letter. Verdict: Fine. Works in the context of the game.

  • Cards can be worth points rather than money. Verdict: Probably better if you're looking for smooth mechanics in a game, since scoring is much smoother and everyone moves along a track rather than having points hidden in their decks.

  • There are different types of cards, many of which have synergy bonuses if you play another card of that type in your word (not as a wild). The synergy bonuses aren't insanely strong, more along the lines of receiving something similar to the base reward for playing the card, but if you get two or three on a turn, that's a huge turn. Verdict: Neutral. Feels like something they added because the game wasn't interesting enough without it, and it makes you think a little differently about what words to spell, but it's more useful to grab an R or an E that doesn't match most of your bought cards than to buy a Q that does.

  • Certain cards can be played in front of you and left there for future turns. However, other players can use that card as well. They don't get the card's reward, but you have to put it in your discard pile. Verdict: Meh. For the most part you're just giving your opponents a free letter to use. Probably much stronger in a two-player game.

  • Word length bonus (7+) goes to whoever gets that size word first, then keeps moving around to whoever does it most recently. Scoring a larger word than the bonus in action discards the current bonus and puts the new one in your hand. Caps out at twelve letters. Verdict: From the most objective perspective I can maintain, I think it's good because it's being the one with the long-word bonus is not at all guaranteed to win you the game. But I admit that I also like it because it works to my advantages as a player.

Oddly, Hardback didn't excite me the way Paperback did. I think that's because the concept of Paperback was new, whereas Hardback had to earn its respect completely on its merits. There's a certain sense that, because anything is potentially wild, the people with the largest vocabulary have a monstrous advantage; it helps, but if you struggle to think up words above seven letters, you can still compete by taking valuable cards and trying to abuse synergy bonuses to the best of your ability. I will acknowledge that someone with a large vocabulary and enough knowledge about how the game works probably does have a sizable advantage if they're liable to be the only ones who build up enough remover to definitely spell a twelve-letter word.

If you like Paperback, the only reason you might not like Hardback is if you particularly enjoy the aesthetic of Paperback (buying books for points, for example). Hardback is much more in line with traditional deckbuilding game mechanics, and in general it is a functionally superior game. It's definitely worth trying, and for most word game fans, worth buying.

Score: Thirteen books read out of fourteen in this particular series.

Review: Dry Country #1

Dry Country #1

Review by: Anthony

Dry Country is an interesting comic. It exists within a genre I usually avoid like the plague because I read comics to escape from reality, not be thrown into the emotional lives that we all experience. Nevertheless, Dry Country hit the shelves as part of my coined term ‘Imagocalypse’, aka the massive influx and oversaturation of #1s coming from the independant company. My boss Greg jokingly tossed this comic my way, telling me it was a review idea, and I shrugged, playing along. I don’t usually read real world comics, but flipping through Dry Country was intriguing, and its unique stylism at the very least piqued my curiosity. Rich Tommaso, the writer has a very unique style, and he’s been praised in the past for his indie tones and his very grounded method of storytelling. So I’m interested, despite my aversion to this type of comic and genre in general.

Dry Country is somewhat of a love story, but first a foremost is a reflection on the life of Lou Rossi, a cartoonist for a newspaper who lives a typical, boring life. He lives alone, is single, and hates going out, but despite all of these things, it would be unfair to say he hates his life. He seems fairly comfortable with everything, even if he does want that special person to come around. Low and behold as he heads over to the community laundry room late at night he comes across a girl who seems pretty cool, laid back, and as into him as he is to her. A couple of dates ensue, but just as things seem to be going well she admits to Lou that she’s been seeing him behind her long time boyfriends back, an abusive jerk who spends his days and holidays drinking booze and watching garbage television. She’s fallen out of love with him, and despite his abusiveness, feels as though she owes him something, so she stays. Lou finds himself in a complicated situation, but he’s just a normal dude, and he’s struggling with finding the answers for the two of them. Through, any more abusiveness from this jerk boyfriend will likely push Lou over the edge.

Dry Country is a mundane simple comic book without anything particularly exciting happening in it. Despite that, it’s indie style and ‘diary entry’ method of writing offers a really relaxing and interesting read - despite the lack of anything jaw dropping. Lou is a relatable character in the sense that he’s just another human being getting by on his paychecks, trying to find love and life but not trying too hard, and struggling with his own emotions and desires. Dry Country is a very pretty comic with a very relaxed and casual system of telling the story it wants to tell. I’m not sure if I see myself continuing with this comic in the future, because my love for superheroes and fantasy and other escapism is already vacuuming the money out of my bank account, but I enjoyed this read, and I could see myself picking up the graphic or the full collection sometime in the future.      5.0/5.0

Review: Greedy Dragons

Greedy Dragons

Review by: Dave

Dragons want treasure! These dragons want each other's treasure. Or can't find more treasure? I thought dragons could smell treasure. Are they trapped in this cave? Isn't there enough to go around? Did I just ask dragons to share?

Greedy Dragons is a new take-that style card game from Evil Hat, and if the phrase 'take-that' made you want to click away from this review and forget the game exists, you may be right to do so. It's built for simplicity above deep strategy, and your only two goals in the game are to build your stash while reducing your opponents'.

Each player starts with five treasure chests and the beginning of a lair, with a supply of extra treasure in the middle of the table. Lair cards have two spaces each, and each lair can consist of four spaces. It's not as simple as having two cards next to each other, though. Lair cards can cover each other up in any way, as long as the lair itself never exceeds four spaces in width.

Spaces in the lair always have an icon consisting of an arrow or arrows, or treasure chests with plus or minus symbols. Every player holds two lair cards at a time and plays one each round. After each round, the directions on each lair are followed to add or subtract loot from each player. Arrows determine who is affected; they can be one or two spaces to the left or right, or a down arrow, which indicates the player who owns the lair. Treasure chest spaces come in plus or minus one or two varieties. If there are multiple players targeted by the arrows on a given lair, all of them are fully affected by the treasure chest symbols (e.g. if arrows indicate both the players seated one and two spots to the left of a lair, along with plus two chests, each player takes two chests from the supply). If there are pluses and minuses in the same lair, the total is calculated before any chests move.

Player order becomes very important later in the game, especially if a lot of plus-chest cards are on the board, because if the supply is empty, you can't take anything, but you can definitely be forced to give some back. One thing about the game that takes the edge off its take-that nature is that there are quite a few plus-chest cards; even with maximum players, not the entire lair deck is used, so it's entirely possible that players will need to work around giving their opponents as few chests as possible rather than try to take them away because the cards that would let them do so aren't coming up.

There's one decision the designers made that I don't want to second-guess too much, since I have no idea what their playtesting was like, but which I question all the same: the rule that you can't look at your treasure chests. If this was some kind of a time-based game, working within the concept that these dragons are rushing to collect as many chests as they can and don't have time to see what's in them, that would make more sense, but it's strategic and slower (though the game doesn't take long to play). More importantly, there's one chest with a magic ring worth ten, and if two people have similar stacks, whoever has the ring is going to win. That's the kind of thing you want to know and plan around. Maybe it would feel weird alongside the rule that you can't re-order your chests—they're last in, first out—but it seems less strange than not knowing at all what you have, and that knowledge could add a bit of a bluffing element to the game as well.

It's... fine. The designers had an idea, they made it function. Some people are going to love this, some are going to think it's trash, most will probably be fine with playing it here and there or using it as somewhat more mindful entertainment than television on a family trip.

Score: Seven dragon hoards out of twelve (I am the best dragon).

Review: Oblivion Song #1

Oblivion Song #1

Review by: Anthony

The Imagocalypse continues with a new #1, Oblivion Song. I knew absolutely nothing about this comic book grabbing it off the shelf, which seems to be a pattern these days with the continuous stream of new comics and new ideas Image is supporting on a weekly basis. There’s a blatant oversaturation of #1s coming out of this company, and while I actually think a LOT of them are worth reading, or even really good, it’s just not reasonable to remain caught up or even remain in the loop about all of these guys. Oblivion Song is a very visually appealing looking comic written by Robert Kirkman, aka the creator of both The Walking Dead and Invincible - two very long running, very well known comic books that helped to launch Image Comic into its recent stardom. I’m excited about this comic book before even reading it, so yeah maybe my expectations are a little high, but man this comic book looked cool when I originally paged through it.

Oblivion Song takes an opportunity to avoid blatant exposition to throw its reader into an intense and somewhat confusing situation. Nathan Cole, a fairly average dude, risks his life to explore a dangerous and unknown alternative dimension called Oblivion - an alien place filled with deadly monsters much larger and more powerful than any human being. At some point in history, apparently sometime recently, many American citizens were somehow transported into this Oblivion realm. It’s somewhat unclear at this moment how to enter this Oblivion, how big its entrance is in comparison to the rest of the world, and whether this dimension even poses a threat in the regular world, but we do know that there are countless people wandering this alternate world, and if they spend too long inside of it holding onto their will to survive, they come back changed and scarred. Most of the Earth’s governments are unsure how to deal with this ‘Oblivion’, and its left to vigilante groups and self-made militias to carry out rescue missions in order to retrieve and bring home these lost humans. Nathan appears somewhat obsessed with this world, going in to rescue people despite the pleas from friends and family, and he seems to be getting more and more careless as his time in the Oblivion goes on.

As I mentioned earlier, Oblivion Song doesn’t give you much to work with in the form of context. Without reading a synopsis that automatically answered a few questions, I had some real confusion about a lot of main story points. It’s possible that Kirkman simply expects you to have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into before you read, but that’s hardly fair, and I think this is where Oblivion Song missteps the hardest. On a more positive note, this comic is visually gorgeous and incredibly attention grabbing from a writing perspective. Kirkman is creating a really cool world here, and from the sound of it it’s been a long time coming. They already have 12 issues FINISHED, which is nutso, so we’ll likely see no hiatus for the next year on this comic, so if you want to get invested get invested. Oblivion Song offers a new and interesting sci fi story that feels original and feels like it could go on for a long time, so gear up for another long running Image title, profit permitting.

4.0 / 5.0

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