Friday, November 28, 2008

Card Game Review - Munchkin

The tricky thing about writing a review of a humorous game is balancing my own jokes with the jokes in the game. On the one hand, half my job is done for me - when I can discuss magic items like the Kneepads of Allure, the jokes write themselves. On the other hand, it's a little tough to come up with new funny crap when I'm trying to compete with a monster known as the Large Angry Chicken. I mean, whoever wrote Munchkin was a step ahead of me the whole time. Curse you, Steve Jackson!

Added to the difficulty of mining a comic game for new jokes is the fact that Munchkin has been around a long time, and there are an awful lot of gamers for whom a joke about the Potion of Halitosis is already old news. It's almost to the point where I'm going to have to pull an Amy Winehouse and get drunk on stage just to impress the audience (incidentally, does anyone else find it wonderfully ironic that her last name is Winehouse? Boy, I'm hard up for jokes when I make one that's been rolling around since she sang about not going to rehab again. Curse you again, Steve Jackson!).

But you know what? I don't care. I'm going to write about Munchkin, and if you don't like it, you can go soak your head. Because it's fun, and it's funny, and besides, I got a review copy. I'm basically morally obligated to write about it. Especially if I ever want to get a copy of Munchkin Quest. And I totally do.

Munchkin is sort of a recreation of a dungeon crawling RPG. If you've ever played D&D, you'll recognize lots of the stuff in here - you can be a hot female half-elf cleric/thief on a quest for treasure and ultimate power, which is pretty much the same thing as playing D&D, but since you can finish Munchkin in an hour or less, it takes a lot less time, and requires a great deal less pretending to be a dissafected Saxon with a horrible accent and a dark past that may or may not include murdered parents. You run around a dungeon trying to pick up magic crap that will make you more bad-ass (the Bad-Ass Bandana, for example). To get to the magic crap, you kill monsters and steal their stuff. So that's pretty much D&D in a nutshell, but funnier and you don't have to shop for costumes.

Every time it's your turn, you'll kick down a door and explore the room beyond. What this really means is you draw a door card, which tells you what you find in the room. You might find a character class that lets you turn into a warrior. You might find a race card that lets you become a halfling. You might hit a curse that makes your pants fall off, or you might find the Chicken on Your Head curse (mighty inconvenient, I must say). But more likely, you'll find a monster and have to run away or fight with it.

It's pretty easy to tell if you should run away or not, because fighting is just a matter of comparing your level with bonuses to the level of the monster. If you win, you draw treasure cards and get a level. If you lose, you die, and then you have to be resurrected, and in the meantime, someone else gets to steal your crap. So that sucks, and so you may want to run away - but this does require a die roll, and if you don't roll high enough, you might lose levels or treasure or maybe even die. Like if you're fighting the dreaded Insurance Salesman and don't escape, you buy insurance.

The monsters you'll meet are almost uniformly goofy. You might fight the dreaded Pukachu, which vomits all over you if you can't run away fast enough. You might meet Bigfoot, which really is just a big foot. And maybe you'll get lucky and just wind up matching your blade against a Potted Plant, which is (possibly unsurprisingly) not a very tough monster, all things considered. If you beat a monster, you get to draw treasure cards, and you get a level. Since you need to be level 10 to win, you'll probably want to fight a lot.

Now let's say you're up against a monster you can't beat by yourself, like the Stoned Golem. He's not all that attentive - he is, after all, sucking on a water pipe in the picture - so you could just leave, but let's say you really want to try to beat him so you can steal his stuff. You can ask another player if they'll help you fight, and they can wade in with their own bonuses. Of course, you'll have to bribe them by giving them your stuff or letting them pick the best loot. And even worse, just because you didn't invite someone to help doesn't mean they can't pitch in. So if you ask the sex-changed dwarf mage to help, and the elf cleric doesn't want you to succeed, he might just bribe the cross-gender dwarf to take a break and go inject more hormones instead.

Bribing people to blow you off is only one way that your friends can screw you. An opponent might play a Nasty-Tasting Sports Drink on the monster, making him harder to beat, or he might throw down cards to make the Gelatinous Octahedron turn into an Ancient and Humongous Gelatinous Octahedron with an identical Mate. In this case, you may want to stab your friend in the face with a tuning fork, since he has almost certainly doomed you to having to throw away all your big items, like the powerful Huge Rock.

Munchkin can be a slightly arbitrary game, where you could lose because one guy pulls all the easy monsters and phat lewt and you wind up facing the Plutonium Dragon and the Unspeakably Awful Indescribable Horror and getting treasures like the Really Impressive Title and the Tuba of Charm. But it's also a riot, and the more players you have, the better it gets, as you curse your foes with the Duck of Doom right before you ask them to help you beat the Floating Nose, then steal back all the treasures you gave them for saving your butt. Turns move very quickly, so there's virtually no downtime, and most of the time you have the option to be involved in the other players' turns, either by playing cards to hurt them or offering your services as an assistant exterminator (and sometimes doing both).

I could go on and on about the silly and amusing cards in the game, or I could describe the nuts and bolts of game play a little more, but that's not going to tell you if you should buy Munchkin. Instead, I'll just say that as an old-school D&D nerd and a fan of games where I get to hose my kids, I liked Munchkin an awful lot. And considering what a mainstay of gaming it has been for the last six or seven years, I'm not the only one.


Plays really fast
Lots of very funny jokes, many of which will be even funnier if you ever played fantasy RPGs
Nearly limitless opportunities to cause your friends misery
Great art by John Kovalic

Limited opportunities for long-range planning or careful game play
Brown cards with brown art - not colorful at all (yeah, that's a stupid, picky con. I admit that.)

If you like fast-paced card games without too much intellectual depth and opportunities to make your friends hate you, you probably should go buy Munchkin right now. You can get one here:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Board Game Review - Formula D

I'm not usually a fan of racing games unless they're video games. It's my personal opinion that racing is the kind of thing that should be done with lightning reflexes, not careful consideration and planning. Racing is all about going hell-bent for leather, screaming through turns like your ass was on fire and your balls were catching. Card games and board games about racing don't generally leave you feeling like you're behind the wheel of a powerful vehicle with the pedal to the floor and a white-knuckle grip on the wheel. Usually, if they do make you think you're racing, they feel like you're geriatric oldtimers with portable oxygen tubes doddering around a mall parking lot in battery-powered wheelchairs.

But Formula D is different. When I play this gorgeous new game from Asmodee US, I can almost hear the grinding gears, the revving motors, and the squealing tires. I can almost smell the burnt rubber. When you throw your transmission from fifth to third to make sure you don't overshoot a turn and wind up parked upside down in a hotel lobby full of vacationing tourists, you can really feel the inertia slam you against your safety belt and hear the engine scream (you'll have to add your own sound effects, though. Try red-lining the RPM meter in your mom's minivan and then popping the clutch. Just don't tell your mom I told you to do that).

This is all managed by a pretty darn brilliant gear system and a three-lane race track. Cars have six gears, corresponding to one of six dice you roll for movement. In first gear, you roll the die that lets you move one or two spaces; by sixth gear you're rolling a die the size of a huge shooter marble that might send you hurtling forward 30 spaces at a time. And these dice are unique to the game - the 12-sided die for fourth gear will only roll 7-12, for instance, so you always have a range of possible movement depending on your choice of gears.

The reason Formula D isn't just Candyland with little plastic cars is the turns. Each turn has a rating - a shallow turn will have a 1, and a really tricky series of cutbacks will have a 3. This is the number of times you must stop within the borders of that turn to avoid shredding your tires to confetti and leaving you running the race on dented rims. Shooting through a turn too fast will cause damage to your car, so you have to downshift to try to make sure you don't rip off your tires. In fact, the trickier turns don't just wear out your tires if you overshoot - they flip your car, sending you flying over the guard rail and through a crowd of onlookers before running around like Ricky Bobby screaming, 'Help me, Baby Jesus! Help me, Tom Cruise!'

And turns are wicked fast, as they should be in a racing game. You choose your gear, you roll the die, you move, and then the next driver goes. And yet there are still lots of important decisions to make with every move - do you downshift to make sure you don't blow out a tire on this shallow curve, or try to keep momentum to be in a high gear going into the long straightaway? Do you hug the inside of the curve to get through in a hurry, or do you drift to the outside because you're trying to bleed off some speed without having to smoke your brake pads? It wouldn't seem like there's much to do, but when you're trying to decide if you can risk throwing it into fourth or if you really need to downshift to keep from flipping your car like a stack of flapjacks, those decisions seem pretty important. Where you put your car can be important, too - if you don't set up for the turns, you might wind up ahead of everyone else with one tire hanging on by a shred of chewing gum, or you might just drive safe through the turn and enjoy the sweet aroma of everyone else's exhaust fumes.

One thing that really helps this game come to life is the incredible quality of the pieces. The board is huge - like four feet by two feet - and the cars are awesome. They could have let you play this game with cardboard counters for cars, but instead you get a baggie chock-full of little painted plastic cars (do yourself a favor and try to find the promo car - it's a little yellow Porsche. It's awesome). The dashboard you use to keep track of what gear you're in could have been a sheet of paper with one of those glass beads that game companies like to pretend are game components, but that are really just crap you use to decorate a fishbowl - but instead you get a die-cut gear box with a little plastic lever. I can't imagine how the components for this game could have been any better.

The rules are awesome, too, with plenty of pictures to explain things if you're a little slow on the uptake. For the uninitiated, this is a reprint (with improvements) of the original Formula De, and in fact is so similar that you can use all the tracks for the old game when you're playing the new one. But the new version adds more stuff, including an incredibly awesome set of optional street racing rules. Now you're not just driving Formula 1 cars around a predetermined track with pit stops to change your tires. Now you're flying through city streets in illegal hot rods, firing off nitrous oxide while irritated citizens shoot at your from their apartment buildings. You get to speed past the police station, with points going to the player who goes the fastest. And even better, each car is unique - one driver might be really good at controlling his car through the turns, while another just gets mad at his stereo and pitches it through the windshield of one of his opponents. One street racer is just a pretty girl, and every time someone else passes her, they have to slow down to stare.

Formula D is easily the most fun I've ever had with a racing game. I'm sitting here typing this and wishing I could go play it right now. It reminds me a little of those old Hanna Barbera cartoons where teams of cartoon racers would try to sabotage each other in long races, and Scooby Doo would be driving while Shaggy held the car together with his hands and his feet, and Grape Ape would be driving a ridiculously small car with his toes, and that creepy little dog would be giggling like a hyena while he threw smoke bombs out the sun roof. I get a wild look in my eye going into a scary turn, and my kids go, 'no, Dad! You'll crash!' and then I upshift and yell, 'Rooby Rooby Rooo!' and roll the die - and my car flies off the track to crash into a sailboat in the bay, and my kids laugh until they pee themselves.

Now that's fun.


Gorgeous reprint that adds a whole lot to the original
Magnificent components
Really exciting - you want to do a victory lap when it's over
Great options for team play and tournaments and lots more kick-ass stuff
Just an incredible amount of fun

May be habit-forming
Is costing me sleep

If you like having fun, you should buy Formula D. The best price I've seen is at Cardhaus:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Card Game Review - DHV

Gather round, boys and girls. It's time once again for another incredibly-small-press game review. Today's review will tell you all about DHV, a game from a company so small they can't even afford to print on the back side of the card.

DHV stands for Drinking, History and Violence. If the promise in that title hasn't captured you already, you are most likely a soulless husk of a human being. And once I explain the premise, it just gets better.

In DHV, you're a historical replica working at a wax museum. And once the doors close and the lights are turned off, you're left with nothing to do but drink and fight. You start by tossing back a heavy handful of alcoholic beverages (unless you're an undead pacifist, in which case salt water is actually a stiff drink). Once you're good and loaded, you can pick a fight with the other drunks, and brawl using your own particular talents.

Your particular talents depend mostly on who you are. If you're the once-pacifistic Mahatma Zombie, you have lots of powerful blocks and a few weak punches. If you're the twisted Sinta Claws, you'll have access to more powerful punches and more booze, but not as many good ways to avoid a punch in the eye. Like Mahatma Zombie, Helen Killer specializes in defense, using her seeing-eye dog, walking stick and reinforced sunglasses. The Atomic Emancipator, on the other hand, cares little for defense, believing that the best defense is a good strong stove-pipe punch to the kidney.

The game is played out with four kinds of cards - attack, defend, struggle and booze. Lots of these defense cards will cancel an attack and then come back with a little pain of their own, often requiring your opponent to make some weak block to try to block your block, thereby allowing his original attack to pop you in the eyeball. Struggles are special cards that can work in combos or just be a little more flexible, and booze cards just help you stay drunk. The last thing you want to do in a drunken brawl is sober up, and the more hits you take, the more sober you get, so it's never a bad idea to have a little extra hooch on hand.

All the cards in DHV are funny. Some are more funny than others, and some are so truly tasteless that they are laugh-out-loud hilarious. When Helen Killer blocks Sinta Claws's crucifix punch with her personal sonar, or when the Atomic Emancipator misses a 4-score-and-7-kicks-ago attack because of Mahatma Zombie's slightly violent block, it's the hardened villain who can keep from at least cracking a smile. Of course, if you're not amused by that, you might also be the kind of person who can't see the smallest amount of humor in a bus full of special-needs fifth-graders singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

The game ends pretty fast - a hand between two people won't last more than five or ten minutes, and a four-player game will still wrap up in less than twenty minutes (probably a lot less). But for five minutes, you can revel in the complete lack of moral compunction that is required to make a game where Helen Killer's 'Braille for Bitchslap' attack is blocked by Sinta Claws's 'Jolly Old Elf Gas.'

Now, I did mention that this company was small, right? The name of the publisher is Robot Martini, and I wasn't kidding about only printing on one side of the card. The cards are all different colors, so you know that Mahatma Zombie's cards are blue and Helen Killer's cards are pink, but there are absolutely no graphics of any kind on the backs of the cards. The fronts of the cards boast minimalistic black ink. But despite an obviously tight budget, the art on the cards is still clever, amusing, and easy to read. The Robot Martini guys have made lemonade from lemons - and then spiked the lemonade with Everclear and fed it to Santa's reindeer.

The upside to the cheap production values is that each pack of DHV cards comes with two fighters for just four bucks. You can get all four drunken brawlers for eight bucks. And if you like to just throw down now and then and play a quick, hilarious, tasteless fistfight while you wait for the pizza guy, DHV will be eight dollars well spent.


Really easy to learn
Clever and funny and completely tasteless (tasteless might be a 'Con' if you're not me)
Plays incredibly fast
Fits in a shirt pocket with room for a pack of smokes

Wicked cheap production value
Not much depth - just some punching and blocking and laughing at bad jokes

I am glad I have DHV, and I know I'll play it again at some point. It's so portable that I'll probably take it lots of places, because at any given moment, I can break it out and throw down. You can get your own copy here:

Friday, November 21, 2008

General Gaming Rant - You Need To Get Out More

I readily confess to being a nerd. I have a calendar at my desk with covers of Silver Age DC comics, and know that Nick Fury wasn't always a black guy. I know lots of crap about Star Wars, and have enough knowledge of Star Trek to mock Trekkies. I can compare the mechanical nuances of Red Box D&D to 3rd Edition, and tell you at length why I dislike Eberron. I own Cowboy Bebop, Akira, and Kung Fu Hustle (and yes, only two of those are anime), and have a Speed Racer Happy Meal toy on my computer. I could go on, but I think that I've proven that my nerd credentials are up to date.

However, while I am incontrovertibly a nerd, I like to think that I manage to possess a reasonable amount of social skill. I can talk to girls. I have friends who don't play games. I bathe regularly, and wash my face, and try to hit the gym now and then (though I admit that it's not as often as I should). I'm not nearly cool enough to be a front man for a cigarette company's advertising campaign, and an aging man with a bald spot would probably only work as a public service announcement (hey, kids, do you want to look like this guy? No? Then quit smoking and put down the Twinkies, dumb-ass), but I can interact with people who know more about frying turkeys or current trends in fashionable shoes than they do about polyhedral dice.

So when I say that way too many of you are socially unacceptable retards, please don't take too much offense. I'm not writing this about all the people who don't read this column because they don't get internet in their mom's basement. I'm writing this directly to you, the guy sitting at his computer reading my column. It's not a rant aimed at making fun of people who aren't here. I mean you. If someone around you can smell your pit odor, or if you stutter when you talk to girls who aren't built like beach balls, or if you can't look a man in the eye when you talk to him, then I'm talking to you. Hell, if you leave the house wearing a shirt that you got at a CCG tournament, or if you have ever owned a Naruto headband for anything other than pure ironic humor, I'm talking to you.

Now, I grant you that it's not even remotely fair to be slinging stones. I'm in a giant glass house here. I'm about two pant sizes larger than I want to be. I wear glasses because I spent too much time reading with crappy lighting as a kid. I may not have zits (one of the perks to bathing every day), but I do own more than one shirt that unmistakably labels me a gamer. But I didn't start this site to be fair, and if you're all pissed because I'm outing you for having a crappy IT job and a near-critical need for a professional haircut, you can bite me.

I'm exhibiting at BGG Con this weekend, starting Thursday and going to Sunday afternoon. Only I couldn't get there yesterday or today, so talked my wife into going in my place. And while she was very nice about it, I could tell from her stories for the past two days that she saw a startling number of goobers. Well, not startling to me - I've been attending nerd cons since I was in high school - but a little startling to her. When she comes home and says, 'if I go back, I'm wearing a turtleneck,' I know she saw some nerdy sons of bitches who couldn't talk to her without being mesmerized by her boobies. And since I have been doing this a long time, I'm quite familiar with the caliber of dude attending a con. I am, after all, a nerd.

So if you're one of the drooling geeks who couldn't come over to the booth because you were scared of my wife, you need to clean up a little. Cut off your ponytail - it's not 1985 any more, and those things look seriously gay. And not even true homosexual gay, but just lame nerd gay. Actual gay guys wouldn't wear hair that stupid. You look like a hillbilly retard.

Wash your face. If you've got acne, it might be due to the fact that you eat so much pizza that your complexion is like 90% lard. Try a salad every now and then. It won't kill you, and it might even clean out your colon, which right now cries in fear every time you open your mouth to insert another double-meat-double-cheese with super-sized fries and a chocolate shake.

Buy some comfortable, attractive clothing. Shirts shaped like circus tents advertising obscure Japanese furry porn are NOT attractive. And you do not look good wearing all black - only vampires and Johnny Cash can really pull that off well. Wash your clothes after you wear them. Hang them up so they don't wrinkle. When you get a compliment on a shirt, it does not mean you should wear it every Thursday for the rest of your life. I've known some seriously fat bastards who could look good in their clothes, and if they can pull it off, so can you.

And while we're discussing body shape, allow me to address your sagging man boobs. If you could lose a Pokemon deck in your belly button, it's time to take up an outdoor hobby. Oh, and karate doesn't count - if you've never been in a fight outside a martial arts studio, you are absolutely NOT a bad-ass. You are just another nerd who thinks that knowing how to hold a horse stance means you know what to do if some drunk redneck in a bar suddenly decides he wants to drink your beer.

Go to a store and talk to the clerk while she checks your groceries. It's good practice, and unless you're really creepy, she can't call security or throw a drink in your face. Make jokes, even if you're not sure anyone will laugh. Smile at people who hold the door for you. Stand up straight and walk like you had to be some place instead of hunched over like you're scared someone might talk to you. When people talk to you, look them in the eye, nod and pay attention.

But there's a flip side to this social practice, too, a guy I like to call Stockholm Man. Because he finds someone who has exhibited, however accidentally, some shared knowledge, and then captures the guy by refusing to shut up about his collection of GI Joe figures for most of twenty minutes. I'm telling you right now, dude, that conversation grows old after two sentences. Not two minutes - two sentences. If I don't go, 'man, that's great! I totally want to see your collection!', then I'm probably bored and wish you would go away, but I'm too polite to just go, 'listen, slick, the only way I ever want to hear about your action figures again is if I'm bidding on them at your estate sale.' I think the name 'Stockholm Man' mostly fits, except that unlike Stockholm Syndrome, the longer you keep me captive with your boring tales of extreme nerdity, the more I want to stab you in the forehead with a shrimp fork.

In fact, allow me to address the idea that conventions are a good place for you to be yourself if you are a super dork. They are not. There is no good place to be a social retard. There is no place where it is OK for you to smell like toe fungus and bad cheese. Don't go out in public wearing shirts that declare 'I'm the DM' or 'I Heart Cthulhu' or 'I Stop For Dragons.' Even at gaming conventions, there are people who could fit in with society, and they are embarrassed to be sharing the room with you. It's fine to be yourself, but only if yourself isn't a wackadoo burnout whose only encouragement comes when his mom tells him he's handsome. Bad news, stinky - she lied.

Let me put it to you like this. I have a son. He is not the least bit tubby, but he could use a little exercise. He has blackheads and pimples and often has bad hair because he won't brush it as often as he should. He sometimes wears the same shirt two days in a row. He often wears pants far past their expiration date. And he is cooler than you are, by a long, long ways. In fact, he mocks you as much as I do. If you can't be as cool as a pimply teenager who is scared of girls, you need to take action RIGHT NOW.

You might be outraged. You might think I'm taking cheap shots and making fun of defenseless nerds who haven't ever done anything to me. You might call me a bully, or a hypocrite, or a mean-spirited asshole. And unfortunately for me, you're right on all those counts. But even though I am a hypocritical bullying asshole taking cheap shots and mocking my own kind, I have a greater purpose here - to get you to clean up. Because most of my best friends are nerds of one form or another, and if you were to figure out how to talk to my wife without mumbling, or learn how to dress yourself so you don't look like a depressed circus clown, we might make good friends (assuming you don't want to hit me in the face at this point, but can't because your karate instructor only taught you how to punch if you first drop into some goofy Bruce Lee pose, and the instant you do that, I'm going to brain you with a beer bottle).

The real problem here is that you're scared, even if you won't admit it. You're scared to talk to people because you think they won't like you. You're scared to take chances because in real life, you can't roll up another character if you get rejected, or set up the board again if you throw up in the car. You're flat-out scared, and so you hide in your apartment and avoid confrontation, and you've never had sex with a beautiful woman or discovered an excellent bottle of wine or punched a man in the face after trying to dance with his girlfriend. So you've avoided some bad experiences, like alcohol poisoning or gonorrhea or having a girl tell you to please go away because your breath smells like vomit. You've also missed out on so much of life, and the longer you wait to quit being scared, the more life you'll miss. You can't ever recover the parts you've missed, but if you start now, you can find out what you've been missing. And most of all, if you have never really grabbed life by the hairy ballsack and squeezed until it cried mercy, you and I are not destined to be friends.

And that's the bottom line, for me. I like knowing a lot of people who will play games with me. I enjoy discussing whether Risk 2210 is better than Black Ops. I love to talk about games and toys and cartoons from the eighties. But I don't like to discuss those things with people if I feel sorry for them, and I don't think anyone actually enjoys the smell of ripe, unwashed ass.

There is hope for you, even if your percent of body fat is more than your percent of body. I know you're watching TV, so flip over to something popular and get a haircut like the good-looking district attorney instead of your favorite vampire hunter. Watch what people wear on shows about rich people who live in California, and wear that. Yes, I am encouraging you to be just like everybody else. But the fact is, if you were more like everyone else and less like a frigging hobbit, you might make some friends who like to go out in the daylight. You and I might get the chance to be friends. And most importantly for you, you might get laid.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Board Game Review - Playing Gods

Let's assume you just read the title of this game and weren't offended right off the bat. Maybe you said, 'you know, I'm not really sure what that's about, maybe it won't be as bad as it sounds.' If that's what you said, I hate to tell you this, but you're about to be disappointed.

Playing Gods isn't just accidentally or mildly offensive. Each player takes on the role of a deity trying to obliterate all the others gods by recruiting or decimating their followers. Buddha carries a chain gun. Allah carries a bomb. And the most offensive of all of these gods is Jesus, who is swinging a giant cross with a spike in the crossbar. In fact, I think it's just a contest at this point to see who blows up Balls Out Entertainment first - crazed Muslims or rabid Christians. My money is on the Muslims. They were going to bomb that Danish newspaper just for a bunch of cartoons. An actual statue of Allah carrying a bomb has got to put them over the top.

[AFTER THE FACT EDIT: The creator of Playing Gods pointed out to me that he never actually mentions that the guy with the bomb is Allah or Mohammed. So if you're a foaming-at-the-mouth Islamic terrorist, you can put away the vest full of C4 - the guy is not making images of your favorite deity. But if you were considering it, feel free to put the vest back on and pull the trigger anyway - just do it someplace where nobody useful will get hurt, like at an anti-gay-marriage rally.]

But even thought it is horribly offensive to nearly anyone religious, Playing Gods is also really funny. For instance, there are five gods that come with the game, and a sixth generic god with a couple blank spots. The sheet of stickers in the box lets you customize that sixth god for whatever you think people will worship - Scientology (represented by a picture of Tom Cruise), Jehovah's Witnesses (with a picture of a finger ringing a doorbell), and Oprah (with a picture of Oprah). Yeah, it's offensive, but it's damned funny.

The game involves rolling a die, moving your god around the aetheric pathway around the world, and using cards to try to kill or convert the sects of the other gods. It's actually pretty straight-forward - you move, and then you interact with the space you land on. If you land on some spaces, you draw a card. Some spaces are portals that let you affect the religious sects on the planet below. And a few do special weird stuff, like jump to another space or steal cards from the other people.

The real fun comes when you get to ruin your opponent's followers with acts of gods (yes, it's lower-case - there are a bunch of different gods in this game, and every one causes earthquakes, mudslides and tidal waves). You play the wrath cards you've run around collecting, and then you watch sects devoted to the other gods fall into the ocean or go up in smoke.

If you want to be a little less aggressive, you can also convert your opponent's sects. There are conversion cards you can play like resurrection and miracles, and then the other god can play cards like prosperity and afterlife, and the god who plays more cards wins. The trick here is that if a god can later come through and kill some of those converted dudes, they'll revert back to their original faith. So there are times when it's handy to kill, and times when it's great to recruit. All things considered, this part is pretty damned fun.

The problem comes in when you try to find the strategy in the game, because there really isn't very much to be had. The die rolls determine what you can do on any given turn, and so you may wind up sitting on a portal to a continent where you're the only god with any followers, and then you do whatever gods do when they're boreed (I don't know what they do. Kill something? Not sure). And to really crank up the luck factor, there's a card called Godkiller, and if you land on the space while holding the Godkiller card, you just point to the player who is winning the game and go, 'sorry, you lose.' It's the most arbitrary player elimination I've ever seen... but it's hilarious.

So the game is a little like Candyland for people who want the express train to Hell. So you can get kicked out of the game with no control over the process whatsoever. So it's offensive, and violent, and twisted. It's side-splitting fun, and I don't care if it has anything in common with chess, because I had a blast playing it. Hell, we had so much fun, we played it twice, even though one player got Godkilled in both games (that's what he gets for trying to win!)

I think the greatest thing about Playing Gods is the point it makes. If you are offended by the concept of this game, you need to lighten the hell up. It's a joke, for God's sake (yeah, I did that on purpose). It's humor and great satire. It points out incredible inconsistencies in the religions we hold most dear (OK, not me, but you might. I'm probably about to be buried in the next mudslide for my personal opinions regarding world religions). It points out how retarded it is to go to war over something as petty as a religious difference. And it makes you laugh the whole time.

As everyone who plays board games knows, no game is complete unless it has expansions. Playing Gods is no exception. The expansion in this case is another little batch of cards you can add to the wrath cards that let you just grab up extra followers (by doing stuff like banning birth control - more Christian sects - or declaring an open-ended war on terror - more Muslim sects) or kill opposing sects (by doing stuff like writing sacred texts in a dead language and complaining that nobody reads them - lose some Hindus). These cards don't add a whole hell of a lot to the game, outside of being damned funny. It's worth getting the expansion just to read the clever crap at the bottom.

One thing that deserves special notice is the production value in this game. Balls Out Entertainment must have hit the lotto, because this game has to cost a bundle to make. The art is perfect. The figures in the game are flat-out gorgeous - easily the most beautiful sculpts I've ever seen on board game pawns (as long as you can find beauty in sacrilege - and I can). The cards are slick and durable. The board is fun to look at. In short, Playing Gods is put together so well, you'll wonder how they can afford to sell you a copy for forty bucks.

Of course, my opinion might be a little biased - I don't believe in any of these religions (except maybe Oprah. How can you not love Oprah? Oh, wait, it's because she's a complete waste of oxygen). So I love being able to play a game that holds up organized religion and says, 'hey, this is kind of stupid.'


Great theme (if you don't mind blasphemy - and I don't)
Plays incredibly fast - turns might only last ten seconds
Absolutely hilarious, I don't care who you are

Limited strategic options
More than slightly sacreligious (wait, should that be under Pros?)

I think Playing Gods is awesome. If you think it might be awesome, you should go here and get a copy:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Board Game Review - The Great Space Race

There's something incredibly appealing about playing a stupid bastard. For one thing, when you make a total bonehead maneuver and end up blasting yourself with your own weapons, you can blame it on the fact that you're representing the guy who would have been picked last for the math team. For another thing, you get to make fun of everyone else for being dumber than a bag of hammers.

The Great Space Race, from Kenzer & Co., hits that special spot where you just love to be dumb. Each player takes on the role of an alien pilot in a great race - a race where the losers have their entire species eradicated from the universe. In fact, the whole contest is really just an opportunity for one race of evolutionary throwbacks to avoid complete extinction, by proving that they are slightly less stupid than the other species marked for extinction.

I don't know about you, but that's a theme I can get behind.

The race is played out with action cards. Your pilots can't think fast enough to pilot the ships themselves, so they have to feed their flight plans into the computer, which is smart enough to chew gum and walk (though not necessarily ambulatory enough to do either). You play your action cards face down in the order you want to execute them, and the number of cards you play is based on your speed. High speed, therefore, means you get to play a lot of cards - but it also greatly increases the odds that you'll get knocked off course and driven into a wall, which is hilariously awesome.

A simple race in this manner would probably be a little dull, however, so the galactic overlord who decided to put you in the race in the first place has equipped your ship with weapons. Every ship has mines that can be deployed behind it as it moves, and if you take the time to equip them, you can also add other goodies to your arsenal, like guided torpedoes and dumb-fire missiles and nuclear devices. And if you think it's a good idea for a pilot so stupid that its entire species is marked for extinction to have nuclear devices, then you might really get a kick out of The Great Space Race.

To add to the mayhem, the great galactic overlord had decreed that stupid crap can happen while you're flying around, trying to beat the other ships to the finish line and simultaneously trying to blow them to pieces (which is funny, because the odds are almost as good that they'll kill themselves, saving you the trouble - except that while trying to blast them, it's not entirely impossible that you wind up hurting yourself. Which, again, is hilariously awesome). This mayhem comes in the form of event cards that might get drawn with your action cards, which can result in more wacky hijinks. Snipers watching the race might take pot shots at you. You might fly into a wormhole. And if things go really poorly, you might open up a black hole right in front of you, and God help you and your entire alien species if you can't avoid flying into the black part in the middle.

The best part of all this meaningless violence happens when you blow up another ship, because each ship is powered by a nuclear reactor, and those reactors make enormous explosions right in the middle of the space race track when an opponent is destroyed. You can laugh at your opponent's misfortune as he blows up like the Death Star, but he may have the last laugh when your ship is torn to iron filings by the enormous explosive aftermath.

Reading through the rules, you might be a little intimidated by the heft of the book. There are rules for the black holes, rules for the nukes, and rules for the giant space amoeba that eats space ships. There are rules for the cannons that the overlord might toss into the ring as motivational tools, and rules for running into each other like Nascar drivers in the rain. But once you start playing, you'll realize that the whole thing goes really fast, and is really easy to learn, with just a few things that might send you back to the rulebook (like what happens when a player discovers the Terrible Secret of Space).

If you've ever played RoboRally, you probably have a pretty good idea how this game works. You put down cards to program movement, and then you take turns executing those cards to see how badly you miscalculated. And I'll say this right now - I don't like RoboRally. I've played it three or four times, and every time it just felt like work, and exceptionally unforgiving work, at that.

But I love The Great Space Race. For one thing, action cards often have options, like the ability to change direction on the fly, or choose between two flight paths, or otherwise have a little more control over your ship while it's moving. For another, The Great Space Race has command decisions, for when you're about to fly into a black hole because you miscounted your move three cards back, and really wish you could make a left turn after you pass Neptune. And yet another improvement is the massive player battles that take place, where you're dropping mines and ramming each other into walls and otherwise completely screwing with your opponents. You're not just trying to program a complicated route, like in RoboRally; now you're actively interacting with your opponents, and not just with cleverly planned maneuvers. Now you're firing missiles at them, which is so much more satisfying than just pushing them onto conveyor belts that drop them into holes in the ground.

A word of caution to the soon-to-be fan of The Great Space Race - the components are not awesome. Every bit of art in the game is drawn on a computer, and most of it is pretty clumsy. The cards are too small and too flimsy, and they tend to get scratched up pretty easy. If this were a game from a big company, it would have great cards and cool spaceships and sweet die-cut counters that you press out of a huge sheet of thick, double-sided cardboard so that you could overflow a landfill with the waste. But if it was from a big company, I wouldn't want to play it.

See, half the charm of The Great Space Race is the cobbled-together hilarity. While the rules are excellent, and the game plays very well, the writers didn't take themselves seriously. They know who they are, and they know what kind of game they're making, and the rules are a hoot to read. You'll laugh all the way through, and you'll be relieved that you're not reading a set of rules that Reiner Knizia had to get approved by a team of stuffy editors with half-finished English degrees. The game is funky and fresh, like an 80s rap group, back before rap was all about street thugs and guns and cussing and mysoginy.

Seriously, the only fault I can find with The Great Space Race is the component quality, and if you're the kind of gamer that gets hung up on pretty pieces, Fantasy Flight makes dozens of games with expensive pieces and no soul. The Great Space Race is fun, fast, exciting, funny, and charming. I look forward to playing it again, and that's not something I can say about lots of games I play.


Great action game
Combines clever planning and quick thinking
Absolutely awesome theme
Fun and fast, with plenty of ways to discover wacky hijinks
Just plain charming, the way only a game from a smaller publisher can be

Components could have been a lot better

I really recommend you get a copy of The Great Space Race. It's a really good time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stockpile, Part 3 - Conclusion

This is the last part of a story that started here. If you haven't read it, go back and do that now. Because if you don't, you'll be confused, and you'll have nobody to blame but yourself.


Billy didn't wait for Gunther to charge this time. He ran toward the persistent zombie, bat held in both hands. He swung for the belly, and predictably, the undead reached arms downward to block. As slow as it was, it didn't have a prayer of shifting back up before Billy checked his swing and redirected it to the monster's head. The bat cracked against the zombie's skull with a noise like a smashed watermelon.

The undead staggered, and Billy attacked again, this time swinging for the fences. The bat crushed the zombie's skull, and it immediately lost all semblance of life. The body simply collapsed.

"C'mon!" he yelled at Gomez. "We gotta run!"

The square was nearly empty now, with all the shuffling undead converging on the hangar across town. Billy set off at a loping jog with Principal Gomez right behind him. He glanced over at the hangar, wishing he thought he could make it there, and noticed the town's only squad car parked outside. It was too far away to make out the face of the man who jumped out of the car and ran into the hangar, and at this point, Billy didn't really care. He just wanted to get to the barn.


Becky could feel herself about to be sick. She didn't want to make any noise. She just wanted to lie there and be left alone, but she could tell she was about to throw up, and there wasn't any way she could do it quietly. She started to drag herself away from the shuffles and moans she could hear through the corn.

And then, without warning, she vomited. Loudly. The grunts and moans became loud and more excited, and she crawled away, still retching. She didn't even see the scarecrow until she ran into the pole. Weak, sick, and tired, Becky pulled herself to her feet and leaned heavily on the scarecrow's sturdy pole. She didn't know how she could fight, but she knew she wouldn't let those demons catch her if she could help it. She meant to go down fighting.

All the fear was drained out of her now. She knew she was dying, knew she didn't have much time left, but she found that she didn't much care. With nothing left to lose, she was no longer terrified. Just really mad.

The lone zombie who did manage to find her discovered, not the frightened prey it had chased into a corn field, but an angry, violent woman. While the other two zombies nearby wandered aimlessly and blindly through the corn, this one was stunned by the fury of its supposed prey. Becky ripped the crossbeam off the scarecrow and smashed the undead over and over. The board splintered and snapped as she drove the monster to the ground, and then she slammed the jagged end of the plank right through the zombie's head, pinning it to the dirt, lifeless once again. A primal scream of rage came from Becky's throat, and then she collapsed again, welcoming the cool of the dirt on her face.


Things were looking darker than ever for Jake and Sheriff Anderson. Anderson had fired on the approaching zombies, this time with a little more success - one of them fell as a huge bullet tore through its forehead and sent its primal brain out the back of its head. But more were coming, and before they knew it, the two men were surrounded and fighting tooth and nail.

Anderson clubbed a zombie in the face with the butt of his gun, but didn't manage to slow it at all. The horrible creature still managed to slash his belly with its claws, tearing his shirt and his skin beneath it. Anderson stumbled back, bleeding horribly, and watched as the zombie approached again.

The undead horror never got to him. Just when Anderson thought he was about to join the ranks of the undead, he heard the roar of Jake's chainsaw as it tore through the attacking zombie and chopped its head clean off.

"We gotta go, sheriff! Right now!" Jake ran for the door, away from the crowd of zombies that pressed through broken windows. "I'll clear a path!" Chainsaw roaring, Jake threw himself at a small crowd of undead right outside the door. Blood and guts flew as the saw tore the zombies to shreds.

Anderson could barely walk. His belly wound was horrible, but he knew that the survivors would need his gun. They would need the first aid kit, too - but right now, he needed it worse. He would never be able to get out of the hangar, bleeding as bad as he was. He ignored the groaning undead and made for the radio room, where he hoped to hide long enough to patch up his wounds.

Three zombies blocked his way. For Sheriff Anderson, all hope fled. There was no way he could fight three of them now, not as badly wounded as he was. He pulled his revolver, and just for a moment, considered putting it in his mouth. As he hesitated, though, he heard the blast of a pump shotgun, and saw one of the zombies lurch sideways from the blast. Standing in the doorway, silhouetted against the late afternoon sun, was Deputy Taylor, the only other peace officer in town.

"Sheriff Anderson? Is that you? I heard you on the shortwave. What in hell is going on?"

The zombies were closer to the door than they were to the deputy. Anderson choked out a warning, but it came too late. The zombies fell on his deputy, who screamed once and then fell to the ground.

Taylor had bought Anderson the time he needed. He made the most of the delay and locked himself in the radio room. He ripped off his shirt, opened the kit, and hastily bandaged his belly and his bleeding forehead. But he was still cornered. Zombies burst through the door to the room, three hungry monsters out for blood.

Like the lone zombie in the corn field, these simple but horrifying predators were not prepared for the sheriff's fury. He kicked. He punched. He lifted the radio set and smashed it over a zombie's head. He even clubbed one of them with a chair. Not one zombie got close enough to hurt him, and one of them even lay unmoving, its brains leaking out past the ruined radio set. The other two had been forced out of the room, and now Anderson dodged past them and ran for the door.


Billy and Gomez reached the corn fields just in time to hear the scream. "Somebody needs help!" said Billy, panting. Gomez nodded, and they both headed into the corn to find the source of the scream.

Gomez saw her first and pointed her out to Billy. "She's been bitten. I can handle this, but you have to keep them off of us." Billy nodded, trusting the principal despite three years of mutual animosity. He spotted several zombies, more from the waving corn than from actually seeing them, and ran toward them, yelling loudly. "Come and get me, you brain-eating bastards!"

Gomez ran over to Becky, pulling a small vial out of his coat pocket. "Trust me," he told her. "This will hurt - a lot - but it will help you." She nodded weakly, unable to protest even if she wanted. Gomez uncorked the vial and poured a thin white powder into the bite wound in her arm.

Suddenly her skin was on fire. The flame burned up her arm, through her blood, all the way to her brain. She screamed in pain, thrashing to try to escape the pain that was burning her from the inside out. Gomez tried to hold her still, quiet her down, but it was no use - the zombies heard her. The first thing Becky saw when the pain finally stopped was two undead tearing the principal in half.

She jumped up and ran. The closest shelter was the barn, and she wasn't going to stay out in the corn field any more. She silently thanked Gomez, whose sacrifice had saved her life, even if her arm still dripped blood from the gaping wound. She threw herself through the side door, right behind Billy. He wiped a smear of blood off his bat and said, "Where's Gomez?"

Becky shook her head, a tear sliding down her cheek.


Anderson followed the trail of shredded corpses as Jake plowed his way through the mass of zombies that surrounded the hangar. Following the drifter was the easiest way to get out. Out of all the undead that pursued him, only one got close enough to bother him, and he simply shot it through the face. Then he was through the crowd, running, and he could see the Grayson farm. With sunset less than an hour away, he jumped the split-rail fence surrounding the farm and made for the barn. As he ran, he noticed the farmer and his wife - but didn't bother to try to help them, since they were smashing out the windows of their own house before they saw him, and then shambling after him once they knew he was there.

The last rays of the day's sunshine hung in the air as Sheriff Anderson made it to the barn. But with horror, he realized that the people inside the barn weren't alone! The zombies had broken in, and he could hear the sounds of a fight from inside. Now with no medical supplies and only two bullets, he wasn't sure what he could do to help - but he wasn't going to let that sun go down without doing everything he could to save his town.


Inside the barn, Becky stabbed at a zombie with a pitchfork while Billy swung at another. Jake had dropped the chainsaw and was scrambling around, looking wildly for anything else he could use to add to their arsenal. He saw the sun slip behind the trees, and knew he had only minutes left to find what they needed. Without medical supplies, all the weapons in the world weren't going to help. The nurse had a horrible bite out of her arm. Billy's back was shredded, blood soaking all the way down his jeans and into the floor. Jake himself was limping, and knew he needed to bind his leg. But if he couldn't find bandages and antiseptic in the next five minutes, time was up and they were all doomed.

Billy swept up the chainsaw and pulled the cord. It roared to life, just in time for Billy to mow down both the zombies that were in the barn. He threw his weight against the door and blocked it with several bales of hay. Becky slammed shut the windows and shutters and locked them before the zombies could simply crawl through the windows. Anderson pulled the barn door shut, and with less than a minute of daylight left, the barn was sealed.

"Just what I needed!" Jake hollered triumphantly, and lifted a box full of vet supplies from inside a stall near the front of the barn. Success was within their grasp - each of them had a weapon, they had medical supplies, and the barn was clear. Jake let himself enjoy a burst of hope.

Just before that last ray of sun disappeared, though, the survivors in the barn discovered Farmer Grayson's last, horrible secret. Years before, Grayson had killed a man over a land dispute - and buried him in the barn. The zombie appeared as if from nowhere, tearing through floor boards and screaming in guttural, unintelligent rage. Jake's cry of dismay echoed through the barn - if even one zombie was in the barn when the sun set, all was lost. And while they could probably finish the horrible thing between the four of them, in a matter of seconds it would be too late. Billy ran for the monster, but only Sheriff Anderson was close enough to do anything. He grappled with the zombie, slammed it against a wall, but didn't manage to smash its head into the hook as he had planned. He beat the zombie, but in the end, it wouldn't matter. They had the weapons, they had the medical supplies, but they were going to lose because this one horrible monster would take too long to die. His snarl of frustrated rage was cut short as he was booted out of the way.

Becky shoved the sheriff aside to have a clear shot. She screamed as she drove the pitchfork through the surviving zombie's face, destroying its brain and pinning it to the wall. "Back to hell, you devil!" As the unearthly light went out in the zombie's eyes, darkness fell on the town.

Anderson turned to Jake. "What now?"

Jake shrugged. "That's up to you, I suppose. We can run, or we can fight."

Anderson pulled the pitchfork out of the wall. His face was set. He was resolved.

"This is my town... and I'm taking it back."


If you have ever played Last Night on Earth, you probably recognize a lot of what happened. Just to clarify, here are a few cards and events that shaped the way the game (and the story) played out.

Sheriff Anderson started with a revolver (as always), but rolled a 1 for his first attack, and had to discard it. Zombies played 'There's No Time, Leave It!" on the next turn, and the revolver left the game, forcing Anderson to have to take a random draw instead of retrieve his revolver. The next item he found was a revolver... but he still rolled '1' three more times in the game, and if not for his 'Man of Action' ability, would not have had four weapons at the end of the game.

"I've Got to Get to the..." forced Anderson to have to run to the hangar. The shortwave radio was entirely my idea - that's not actually in the game. I just used it to explain why Anderson had to run all the way across town.

Anderson used "Escape Through the Windows" to get away from the zombies who had cornered him in the general store.

Zombies wounded Becky early in the game, and played "I Feel Kinda Strange." Becky then hid in the cornfield most of the game, hoping she could avoid fights and thus avoid becoming a zombie hero.

The gasoline-and-blowtorch combo failed miserably.

Six zombies closed in on the hangar after Jake left. Sheriff Anderson (holding a revolver and the first aid kit) was wounded a second time, and was about to have to fight three zombies. "Deputy Taylor" prevented the fight from occurring, giving Anderson enough time to heal up. The next turn, Anderson repelled two zombies and killed a third, and then ran out of the hangar to head for the barn.

"Principal Gomez" was played to cancel "I Feel Kinda Strange." Although I left it out of the story because it was getting too long, Billy used the fire extinguisher to drive the zombies away from Becky so she could get to the barn. She found a pitchfork when she searched there.

Jake drew a "Just What I Needed" while holed up in the barn to pull the only "First Aid Kit" left in the deck.

On the very last zombie turn, the heroes had killed enough zombies that the zombies were able to spawn - and one went into the barn. Victory conditions for the heroes required the barn to be cleared, so the zombie player was pretty confident, having just placed three zombies in the barn with only one turn left for the heroes.

Billy used the chainsaw to kill two of the zombies in the shed. Anderson attacked the last zombie, and succeeded in winning, but did not kill it. The zombie player started to celebrate a victory, and then the hero player played "Get Back You Devils!", allowing the stalemate to turn into a kill. With absolutely no more time left, the heroes pulled out the narrowest of wins.

The thing about Last Night on Earth is that just about every game could be turned into a story, just like this. Not all will be as thrilling, but even if the heroes lose, the game is always like playing a board game version of a zombie movie. I simply cannot recommend this game highly enough. Go here and get a copy:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stockpile, Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1, go do that now. Otherwise this won't make a whole hell of a lot of sense.


The thing that used to be the school janitor lurched toward Billy, hands twisted into claws, ruined mouth opening and shutting, a wet gurgle coming from deep inside the gore-smeared chest. Billy was more scared than he had ever been, but he was still an athlete (even if he had quit the baseball team to piss off his father), and knew how to swing a bat. As the zombie lunged, Billy swung hard, smacking the shambling undead right in the chest. Bones cracked, blood flew in spatters, and the zombie staggered back. But moments later, it twisted back towards him, ignoring the ribs jutting out from its ruined torso.

"Dammit!" yelled Billy. Despite having watched hours of late-night horror movies when his parents thought he was asleep, he had still forgotten to aim for the head. So he wound up and prepared for the second pitch, and as the undead horror reached out again, Billy swung for its skull.

Unfortunately, the zombie was a quick learner. It raised an arm just in time to take the blow, and while Billy forced it back again, this time with a shattered arm, it was still far from dead.

Billy laughed at a sudden absurd notion - his attacker was far from dead, but not in the direction Billy would have liked. This shambling horror was not just dead, it was ruined, mutilated and maimed. But it still kept coming, so rather than try his luck with one more swing, Billy ran. He dodged past the grasping monster and sprinted for the exit. He reached the door and flung it open, and then paused for a second.

The school kept a fire extinguisher at every exit. Billy wasn't sure how he would use it, but he didn't think Principal Gomez would mind if he borrowed it. Assuming Gomez wasn't already dragging his sorry carcass all over the town trying to eat all those brains it had spent its whole living career filling with education.


The doors to the general store were wide open. Apparently, Tom had not been thinking far enough ahead to lock up before he murdered his wife. Sheriff Anderson ran inside and pulled the doors shut behind him, jumped over the counter and crouched down. Only once he was out of view did he begin to reload - and now he realized that he had dropped all his bullets in the grass out front. He cursed the panic that had made his hands shake, but only allowed himself a brief moment to be disgusted with himself.

Anderson began to wrack his brain. He needed a weapon. He remembered the words of that drifter, Jake Cartwright, who had told him to find weapons and medical supplies and meet up in Grayson's barn before the sun went down again. Since the first rays of daybreak were just starting to light up the store, Anderson figured he might have a little time.

The zombies out front had another idea. Half a dozen shambling undead had seen him retreat into the store, and they now pounded on the plate glass windows that advertised fresh produce and sales on baked goods. Anderson reached for his revolver instinctively before he remembered that it was empty, and then he started looking around, fighting back a surge of panic.

From his vantage point on the floor, Anderson noticed the first good news he had seen since he went on duty last night. Hidden under a newspaper, with just the butt sticking out, was Tom's trusty .357. Anderson never did understand why Tom thought the little town would ever see enough crime to justify a hand cannon like this one, but right then, the sheriff couldn't have been happier about the old grocer's paranoia. He grabbed up the pistol, and behind the gun, he saw the box of bullets, which went into his pants pocket. Grinning with new-found confidence, Anderson stood up to assess his situation.

And then all the windows seemed to shatter at the same time, and the zombies came pouring in.


Jake grabbed the torch and flare gun from Becky and shoved the gas can into her hands.

"Throw that on the ground outside! And RUN!!!"

But Becky was rooted to the ground, screaming in horror as the two shuffling zombies closed in. One of them reached out, and faster than Jake remembered the damned things could move, the abomination sank filthy teeth into Becky's arm. The other zombie grabbed her by the hair and moved in, jaws snapping in anticipation.

Jake didn't take the time to think about what he was doing. He rushed the attacking zombies, grabbed the one who was about to rip out Becky's throat, and pulled it away. The zombie stumbled, slipped, and fell over the counter to land with a crash, out of sight for the moment. Jake grabbed the other zombie by the face, pushed it free of Becky's arm and onto the floor, and fired the signal flare point-blank at its chest.

The pain of having her arm torn open focused Becky's terror, and when Jake freed her, she acted on pure instinct. Still screaming, she fled through the front door and down the street, hurling the gas can into the wreckage in front of the store.

The flare had missed, and instead of burning the zombie like a Roman candle, it was now embedded in the vinyl-covered seat in the booth closest to the door. Cursing his horrid luck, Jake followed Becky's lead and ran. The zombie on the floor made a grab at him, tearing a gash out of his leg, but Jake still managed to stumble out the door away from the undead.


Billy was a champion sprinter, but when he emerged from the school into the dawn, he had no idea where to run. Everywhere he looked, the undead residents of his small town wandered the streets, intent only on devouring living flesh. He decided to make a break for the general store - after all, if the sheriff was in there, he might have a chance of getting out. He only got a few steps, however, when he heard a familiar voice call his name.

"Billy Anderson!" yelled the powerful and authoritative voice. "Over here!"

Billy looked in astonishment at the second floor window, where Principal Gomez leaned out and called to him. Under normal circumstances, Billy would rather avoid a visit to the principal, but right now he was just glad to see another living person. He ran over as Gomez lowered himself out the window and dropped, his fall cushioned by the shrubs that grew in beds around the school.

Billy helped him up. "Mr. Gomez, are you OK? You're not, like, dead, are you?"

Gomez brushed leaves from his suit coat and looked around at the converging zombies. "Not yet, son, but we had better hurry if we want to keep it that way."

Billy nodded vigorously, and looked for a clear path. But just as he did, the undead janitor threw itself from the school's roof and landed on top of him. Billy's breath rushed out of him as he slammed into the ground. The janitor slashed at him with fingernails like claws, digging deep, bloody trenches into his back.


Anderson fired as fast as he could. He was a remarkable shot, and hit with every one of the six bullets, square in the chests of all the advancing undead. And yet none of them so much as missed a step, and now Anderson was empty again. And worse, the zombies were swarming over the counter. Already two of them were within striking distance. The sheriff managed to knock the legs out from under one of them, but the other swung a meaty fist into the side of his head. The world spun, and Anderson staggered.

He knew he didn't have time to reload, and the zombies were between him and the back door. He kicked at the one attacking now, then leapt for the shelves behind him. He climbed desperately, knocking prescription bottles and candy to the floor. Above the shelves, a high window allowed access to the alley behind the store - if he could get there in time. Already the zombies were closing in again, and one grabbed the back of his leg.

Anderson kicked out reflexively and caught the zombie in the forehead. It let go of his leg, and with a final push, the sheriff squirmed out the narrow window and dropped to the ground outside the store. He paused to consider his options, and that's when it hit him - the hangar.

The best thing he could do would be to get help. The tiny hangar just outside town held, alongside the biplane used to dust the corn fields, a short-wave radio. It would be a bit of a run - almost a mile - but if he could reach the hangar, he could signal someone - anyone - for help. He knew he couldn't fight off the zombie horde alone. If the throbbing pain in his skull wasn't evidence that he was out of his league, the blood dripping into his eyes would have persuaded him. Before the zombies inside the store could break through the back door, Sheriff Anderson was running.


Jake saw the panicked nurse running across the town square. He had seen her bitten, and from the way she was weaving as she ran, knew that she didn't have much time left before she joined the ranks of the undead. He shrugged as he lit the blowtorch. He couldn't do anything for her now.

He took a couple more steps away before he threw the torch. With any luck, it would land in the gasoline-soaked grass and start a blaze that would immolate the two zombies he had just escaped as they shuffled out of the diner.

Apparently, luck was not on his side tonight. The torch landed just shy of the puddle of gas, ground into the dirt, and shut off. Jake swore and ran toward the closest building that didn't appear to have fallen to the zombies - the hangar. He remembered seeing the building on the way into town, and it was obvious that he wasn't going to be able to hold out at the diner. He cursed the small town again, and wondered why everything had to be so far apart. It would take him half an hour to reach the hangar, and with the sun approaching its summit, he knew he had less than eight hours before darkness fell and brought the complete destruction of the entire town... and him with it.


As the son of a small-town sheriff, Billy knew a thing or two about fighting. He ignored the searing pain in his back and the sharp stabbing pain in his leg and rolled hard, throwing the clumsy zombie off before it could sink its teeth into his neck. Gomez yanked him to his feet, and together they ran. They were halfway across the square when they saw Billy's father. Sheriff Anderson saw Billy and the principal at the same time.

Relief at seeing his son alive washed over the sheriff. "Bill! Thank God!" He started to turn toward Billy, but the zombies wandering the square took a decided interest in him, and he knew he could never break through.

"Dad!" shouted Billy. "What do I do?"

"Get to Grayson's barn! Be there before dark! I'll meet you there!"

Billy didn't know how he would manage to cross town and get past Grayson's corn fields to find the barn, but as Sheriff Anderson was already running hell-bent for leather, Billy didn't have time to ask.

Billy turned to see Gomez trying to fend off Gunther, the undead janitor. With a grim look, Billy pulled Principal Gomez away.

"Back off,' he said, swinging the bat with purpose. "I can handle this."


Becky was feeling worse with every step. Even though she had managed to escape the immediate clutches of the zombies who were following her, she could feel the corruption creeping up her arm. She was moving slower, and her fever was a flame burning her alive from the inside out. She had left town hours ago, running without direction, hoping only to find some place to hide. When she saw Grayson's corn fields, she made for them without hesitation. She didn't even bother to look back at the mass of undead who had followed her out of town. She couldn't even run faster than they did now.

She plunged into the fields of corn that grew taller than her head and forced her way through, stumbling and weaving as she grew steadily sicker. Finally she stumbled and fell, too weak to rise. Through the haze of unconsciousness that began to settle in, Becky could hear the moans and grunts of the zombies as they pushed their way through the fields of corn, intent on feasting on her before she died.


Jake slammed the door of the hangar open with his shoulder and slipped inside. The noonday sun barely reached the inside of the hangar through the dirty skylights and few windows, but Jake could still see his way around. He began to explore the hangar, looking again for anything that he could use as a weapon.

He couldn't believe his luck when he opened the storage cabinet. There on the bottom shelf, fully fueled and read to use, was a gas-powered chainsaw. His grin was downright evil as he picked it up.


After a desperate run across the square - made more difficult thanks to his bleeding head wound - Sheriff Anderson made it to the hangar. He had outpaced the zombies behind him easily enough, but had been forced to make a couple detours to avoid the ones in front of him. He could only hope that his headstrong, rebellious son could make it to the Grayson place. Or for that matter, that he could make it himself. He was a little light-headed, and the head wound hadn't completely clotted. But even if everyone in the town died, he had to get the message out on the short wave. Someone had to be told.

He pushed open the door and looked into the hangar, just in time to meet the drifter again.

"Get in, quick. We gotta find weapons and medical supplies. Time's a wastin', sheriff."

Anderson wasn't sure why he believed the shifty-looking drifter, but he knew he did. He slipped inside and reloaded the revolver, even though he wasn't sure what good it would do. While Jake opened boxes and went through drawers - all while holding the chainsaw in one hand - the sheriff went straight to the radio room. He had made hundreds of calls on that shortwave, so he knew right where it was. After the carnage he had already witnessed since the early morning, he wasn't even fazed to see the trail of gore that led out the door of the tiny radio room.

He didn't even bother to put on the headset, just held one side to his head as he tried to dial in anyone. The radio was a mess - there was no way to adjust it without touching blood - and something had broken loose in back. He got back static on every band. He kept trying, though, and finally got a quiet crackle instead.

"This is Sheriff Anderson! We need help! Something has gone wrong with the town! All the people-"

A burst of static noise cut him off, and then the set popped and sparked and went completely dead. Smoke rose out of the radio set. Anderson cursed and knelt down to look under the table, hoping he could find the replacement parts he would need to fix whatever had just broken. Instead he saw something better - a first aid kit propped up against a table leg. He reached for it just as Jake barelled into the radio room.

"We gotta get movin', Sheriff. They know we're here, and they're between us and the barn. We're gonna have to fight our way out."

Anderson stood, holding the medical kit in one hand and his gun in the other.

"I'm not done. I have to get a message out. National Guard, maybe, or state troopers-"

Jake cut him off with a wave of the chainsaw. "No time! They can't help us anyway! They're right outside the door!"

As if to punctuate his point, the door slammed open and a window shattered. Jake was too late - the zombies were in the hangar.

(To be concluded on Friday!)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stockpile - A Last Night on Earth Session Report

This week, I'm doing something completely different. Instead of reviews all week, I'll be telling you a story. This story is actually an embellished description of an actual session report of Last Night on Earth. The game upon which this story is based was the best game I've played of any game I ever played.

I don't intend to make a regular habit of writing fiction instead of game reviews (though my critics might argue that I am writing fiction when I write game reviews), but I think that this is the best way for me to relate to you what a great time you can have playing Last Night on Earth. Plus the game was so fun, so tense, and so exciting that I really wanted to make it a story. So without further ado, here is part one of Stockpile, a tale of Last Night on Earth.


Becky was almost at the end of a long night - pulling a double, and on third shift, no less - when the bodies started crawling out of the morgue. She was retrieving a chart for Doctor Burnside, who was busy on an autopsy, and when she heard the old man start screaming, she ran to help. But when he stumbled out of the swinging doors, entrails dragging behind him, a vacant look on his face, she turned and ran for the exits.


Billy's lighter did a rotten job of lighting up the gymnasium, but he hadn't had time to steal one of his dad's mag-lights before he snuck out to go vandalize the basketball court. But the flickering flame did reveal enough for him to see that the court was already painted red - with blood. The janitor's bucket had spilled on its side, and soap bubbles floated atop the gory mess.


Sheriff Anderson was not having a good night. His wife had just called to tell him his son wasn't in his bed, and now he had to question this rather odd drifter who was just wandering through town square at three in the morning. The stranger has just told the sheriff his name - Jake Cartwright - when they heard a scream. They both turned to see Tom, the kindly old man who ran the general store, rip off his wife's left arm.

Everything started to happen at once. Anderson pulled his revolver and starting yelling at old Tom, but the crazy bastard ignored him until he fired a warning shot. Then Tom forgot about his wife - now dead with her throat torn out - and started toward him. Anderson emptied his gun - hit Tom four times, even in the dark - but the grocer kept coming.

Jake cursed under his breath. "It's happening. They're coming... again."

"Sheriff!" he yelled. "We gotta get some weapons, and maybe some medical supplies, and hole up! If we're out here when the sun goes down tonight, we're all dead!"

Anderson was reloading as the gray-haired zombie shambled toward the two of them in the middle of the town square. He was ignoring Jake completely and yelling for Tom to stay where he was.

"Sheriff!" yelled Jake again, grabbing the sheriff by the arm. "We gotta find someplace safe! Where can we go?"

Startled, Anderson turned away from the advancing undead shopkeeper. He looked around rapidly, on the edge of panic, but pulled himself together. "Grayson's barn! Out by the cornfields!" Tom was getting closer, and Anderson was loading as fast as he could.

Just then, the doors to the clinic up the street burst open, and the blonde nurse came running out screaming, eyes wild.

Jake ran off toward Becky. "I know the place!" he called over his shoulder. "See you there, before the sun goes down again!"

Anderson's hands shook too much. He dropped four bullets in the grass before he gave up and slid the gun back in its holster. Tom was close now, close enough that the sheriff could see by the full moon that Tom's face was covered in blood, and his eyes were cloudy white orbs. Anderson didn't wait to see what Tom meant to do. He sprinted past the old man and into the closest building - the general store.


When Billy heard the screams and gunshots, he jumped on top of the bleachers and looked out the windows. He saw Sheriff Anderson sprinting away from Tom. He saw Tom's wife, Mathilda, stagger to her feet, one arm completely missing. He saw more of the residents of the small town, now, starting to stagger into view. Some were covered in blood. Some had horrific wounds. But when he saw Gunther, the school janitor, it really hit him - something was really, really wrong.

He might have stood there, panic-stricken and paralyzed by fear, but then Gunther turned and spotted him. At the sight of Gunther's face - half of it completely torn off, so that Billy could see flaps of skin and muscles flapping loosely above the janitor's exposed jawbone - he shrieked and fell off the top bleacher. He stumbled a couple steps before he caught himself.

"I need a weapon," he said to nobody in particular, and ran to the equipment locker. He knew Mr. Cranston, the gym teacher, had the key, but he also knew he could break into it with a credit card. He had done it before.

However, he hadn't ever done it while staggering undead crawled over each other's bodies to crash through the windows of the gym. His hands were shaking, and he was sure he would piss himself, but just as Gunther dragged himself all the way into the gymnasium, the lock clicked. Billy reached in, grabbed a baseball bat, and turned to face whatever the friendly old janitor had become.


Jake grabbed Becky's arm and waved her toward the diner. "Come on! We gotta get to shelter!"

Becky was too dazed to resist. She was terrified and confused.

"What the hell is going on in this town?" she screamed. Jake ignored her and kept pulling her toward the run-down eatery.

Becky didn't fight him. She was just glad to have help. Her mad dash through the clinic had been like something from a nightmare. The new internist had been pinned under a hospital bed, pleading for help as two of his patients chewed noisily on his legs. She had just dodged a shuffling old woman in a torn hospital gown who lunged at her grunting, 'braaaains,' and had slipped and fallen in a puddle of blood just inside the glass doors. When she saw another living person offering her help, she was only too glad to follow him.

Jake picked up a trash can and threw it through the diner's window, then helped Becky climb into the little greasy spoon. He hit the lights, and a weak flourescent glow illuminated the worn-down eatery.

Jake turned to Becky.

"Look, we gotta look for supplies. We're short on time, and before you know it, we're going to be up to our asses in the undead. Check behind the counter for anything you can use - flashlights, crowbars, guns - whatever. I'll check the back. And shout if you see anything moving!"

With that, the drifter ran into the kitchen. He ignored the knives - he knew there was no way he could stop a zombie with a paring knife, and he didn't see a cleaver. But he was delighted to spot the diner's back-up generator, with a full gas can sitting right next to it. He swept up the can and ran back to the front counter.

He almost ran into Becky coming through the swinging doors. She was holding a signal flare and a blowtorch. Even for Jake, who was considered himself something of a professional scrounger, that was one hell of a find. His expression flashed through confusion, disbelief and delight.

"Where the hell did you find those?"

Becky pointed to a cardboard box behind the counter. "The county road crew must have left some gear behind after dinner last night. They probably meant to come back for it." She giggled hysterically, but just for a second. "Guess they won't need it now!"

Jake ignored the panic in her voice. "And the torch?"

Becky shrugged. "Hank keeps a bunch of tools for fixing pipes and stuff. It was in his office."

Jake lit up at the prospect of a box full of tools - he could do plenty with a crowbar and a claw hammer - but just then, the front door caved in. Two zombies in hospital gowns pushed their way into the diner, oblivious to the broken glass that shredded their bare feet. The time for foraging was past. It was time to fight for their lives.

(Come back Wednesday night for part two of Stockpile, and don't forget to read Friday night for the hair-raising conclusion!)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Card Game Review - Yetisburg

Looking back at this week's reviews (and the one I'm about to write), it seems this is a weak game week. Quest of the Dragonlords was fun, but sloppy and unbalanced. Nin Gonost is pretty, but a horrible, near-unplayable travesty. And then there's Yetisburg, which I enjoyed thoroughly, and my son refused to touch it again.

In case you couldn't tell from the title, Yetisburg is tongue-in-cheek and a little silly. The basic premise is that yetis arrive at some point during the Civil War, and both sides now use these unpredictable psychopathic monsters as shock troops. Which makes lots of sense, because if you found an entire army of prehistoric cryptids, your first action would almost certainly be to put them in a blue uniform and give them a tiny little cap. It most certainly would not be to run like hell, because that would make you something other than a reckless idiot (not that you are a reckless idiot - well, you might be, but I'm not exactly on a first-name basis with everyone who reads this, and so it's entirely possible that you might, in fact, be a reckless idiot. I'm just saying I don't know, and would hate to call you names without knowing I was right. Of course, if I knew I was right, I would totally call you a reckless idiot, as long as I thought it was funny. And as long as you didn't know where I lived).

The theme here is next-phase new-wave dance-craze awesome. It's funnier than those pictures of guys with no eyebrows and profanities written on their foreheads in permanent ink because they passed out after drinking too much cheap tequila, just to wake up duct-taped to a wall and wearing only a tube sock and poorly-applied lipstick. And that's saying something, because that's pretty funny stuff. There's a letter at the beginning of the rule book where this poor soldier is writing his girl back home, and he expresses his sorrow at never being able to hold her in his arms again - because the yetis ripped off his arms. The rulebook closes with a reimagined version of Dixie where the chorus goes, 'Run away, run away, run away, from the yeti.' This is prime comedy gold, and it's followed up by exploding mastodons and troops so clumsy that they hit their own guys almost as often as they hit the enemy. It's funny and engaging and fun.

The wrinkle, however, is that it's horribly random. The battle is laid out in two rows of cards for each side, and then when you attack, you flip these little cardboard counters with meat on one side and numbers on the other, and that counter tells you where your shot hits. Hit one of your pathetic infantrymen, and he's dead. Hit a yeti, and he'll be pissed. Hit a wooly mammoth a few times, and he'll explode in a shower of high-grade prime rib.

So you're never really sure you're going to hit the enemy when you fire - half the shots end up sailing off the battlefield, if they don't hit your own soldiers - and to make matters worse, it can be difficult to keep your guys ready to go to work. Every time you attack, you attack with all the troops of a particular type that are ready, and then they all start wheezing and have to lie down and you can't get them to get back to their day jobs until the end of the turn, or if they get shot. This may seem odd - getting shot makes you ready to attack again - but if you got stabbed while you're taking a nap, wouldn't you wake up? So you don't want to miss an opportunity to attack, but at the same time, you might not want to fire with the troops in back, as they're likely to hit the guys out front.

And adding just one more layer of random, you can only attack with a particular kind of troop if you've got a matching card in your hand. We had a few rounds where we actually tried to attack with guys who couldn't attack, just so we could throw out the card and get a new one. If all you've got on the field are sleepy mastodons and cavalry, and the only cards you've got in your hand are yetis and infantry, you get to stand there looking like you forgot your Alzheimer's medication. It can be frustating to try to get the cards you need to attack, especially beacuse every extra card you have to draw puts you one card closer to losing the game.

There is a really clever command mechanic that does a good job of lessening the affects of all that randomosity. At the end of every turn, your officers can try to rally the troops. They might maneuver to get the angry yeti out of the back line and into the trench where he can eat the guys on the other side. They might holler at the lazy troops to make them ready to fire again. They can even return from the discard pile, replace a soldier you don't really need, and then swap out on the next run for a yeti.

So there's a whole lot of chaos in Yetisburg, and it might feel like you're a little out of control, but it is unquestionably fun. The random hilarity manages to keep you completely attentive, and yet you don't have to feel too bad about getting stomped. The art on the cards is completely brilliant. The little meat counters you use to indicate wounds are also totally bitchin'. Everything is very, very well done, and the only way you won't love playing Yetisburg is if you're a complete control freak. And if you are a complete control freak, you're probably playing Ra for the hundredth time and turning your nose up at a game where yetis punch wooly mammoths until they explode.

I have to hand it to Paizo - I haven't found a game from them that I don't like. Key Largo, Kill Doctor Lucky and now Yetisburg have all been a blast. They're incredibly fun games. So there are some problems with Yetisburg that might offend the gaming purists, but I have to tell you something about those purists - they spend all their time calculating the most efficient way to organize the toilet paper tubes. They're not much fun. You should get Yetisburg, a couple beers and a buddy. You'll have a blast.


Fantastic art
Totally awesome theme
Hilarious game play
Finishes in less than half an hour
Good opportunities for strategy

The level of chaos could threaten a gambler's sanity

If you like games with great themes and lots of casualties, you should get Yetisburg:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Miniatures Game Review - Nin Gonost

For reasons that are not particularly important, I am really pissed off right now. I was going to review Yetisburg, but I suddenly feel an urge to find a game I hate and tear it a new asshole. Luckily, I haven't sold my copy of Nin Gonost.

Nin Gonost had a ton of promise. It comes in a kick-ass wooden carry case, with gorgeous wrap-around graphics. And if you look at the back of the box, you'll see even more awesome - there are a bunch of metal minis in this case, along with six tubes of paint, a brush, a beautiful rulebook, metal doors on hinges (awesome!) and sarcophagi with removable lids (even more awesome!). But the best part, the very pinnacle, the neatest thing ever and the reason I really wanted this game - the magnetic floors and walls.

These floors and walls can be arranged to make really cool dungeons, really fast. The walls stick right on the edges of the floor panels, and you can really whip up some awesome stuff in a hurry. I can't wait to start abusing this game, but before I do, I have to tell you that the magnetic walls and floors in Nin Gonost are wicked awesome.

But that's it. That's the extent of the awesome, and now I get to open up a can of whoop-ass on the worst miniatures game I have ever played. And I'm going to start with the miniatures.

There's a knight standing so rigid that he looks like he's got a steel rod shoved up his ass. His pose is so bad that he looks like he's the team mascot posing for a yearbook shot - only his legs are so damned skinny that I'm pretty sure he would collapse under the weight of his costume. There are orcs, most of which have no noses. That isn't to say they've got some cool nose thing going, I mean they look like the noses got mashed into their faces when the sculptor was molding them. There's an archer walking forward, but he looks so wooden we called him Pinocchio when we played. And the piece de resistance is the geeky nerd lackey, who carries a lantern and a water bottle and a really small mace. All the armored knights and elf archers probably give him wedgies.

I will concede that some of the minis are actually pretty cool, and there is a really cool troll with a long trident and a spiked helmet, but I think I remember that the troll came in a different set, only I can't check any more because the gaming gods have been merciful, and the publishers of Nin Gonost are no longer with us. Thank you, gaming gods.

I'm still building up to the rules, because they deserve special attention for sucking, but before I break loose the floodgates of disgust, I'll pause at the paints that came in the box. There are six tubes of special Adikolor paints, in silver, black, white, brown, green and what I can only assume was supposed to be yak-puke yellow. These paints are some of the worst I've ever used. They are watery, requiring multiple coats to cover even primered figures, and the colors are awful. I just don't know how many miniatures I'll ever want to dab with spots of plague. Especially when that plague paint is more watery than light beer.

OK, I'm feeling good now. I'm warmed up. I think I'm ready to skewer what has to be the most cumbersome, needlessly complicated, totally worthless miniatures rules set I've ever played. Prepare to learn about... the dice.

Holy murder of crows, Batman, there are a lot of dice in this box. You need 25 dice to play Nin Gonost - and each one is different, so you better not lose one under the stove. Descent might have a big pile of dice, but when I play Descent, I don't need a visual organizer to keep them straight. The designers of Nin Gonost even knew they had too many dice - the organizer is in the box. Before you play, you're supposed to lay out all the dice on this sheet of cardstock the size of a junkmail postcard, so that you can tell at a glance which is the dark yellow shooting die and which is the bright green melee die and which is the crystal-clear fate die. I shudder to imagine how much Adiken spent to have 25 different custom dice made for every game. No wonder they're out of business. I mean, aside from making a crappy game.

The system has to have 25 dice because when you get a modifier to your roll, you don't add to the result - you roll a different die. Let's say you're attacking from behind - you get a bonus, so you find another die. Or you're shooting from long range - you get a penalty, so you find another die. This process is more incredibly tedious than hand-sorting a bowl full of cat kibbles. No, it doesn't take long to find the next die - but why not just let me add the bonus to the die roll? That would work! There's no need to make me swap out dice like Imelda Marcos at a shoe discounter. It's stupid.

Then you've got the maneuvering rules. The maps are so narrow that you rarely have many options when it comes to moving, and you can't scoot around people, so it basically comes down to standing in front of your enemies and hacking at them until one of them falls down. You roll for initiative, but it winds up being mostly stupid, because except for shooting (which doesn't happen a lot), combats are simultaneous. In other words, if you attack the same guy three times, you could lose three guys on your own turn. It's lame.

The basic rules are even worse, because in these rules, you don't wound your foes. You either kill them or you don't. That seems needlessly stupid, because you're only going to be putting like four or five guys on each side, so it's not like you're going to be hard-pressed to track wounds. It also means that there's not much point in throwing a horde of small guys at a big guy, hoping to whittle him down, because unless one of those little bastards gets really lucky, they're all just going to wind up trying to breath out their foreheads.

You should probably know that when I started writing this review, I was really, really angry. I picked Nin Gonost to review because I know it sucks, but I definitely added a little more vitriole than was strictly necessary. Not that I think I lied anywhere in here, but it might be less of a puddle of suck than I've made it sound. Not by much, mind you - it is the worst minis game I ever played - but it's only fair that I suggest you take this review with a grain of salt.

I have to say, I feel a lot better now. Thank, Nin Gonost, and thank you, patient readers.


Lots of miniatures. Some are even cool.
Totally kick-ass magnetic walls and floors
Really awesome doors and coffins
Sweet art and a super-neat carrying case

Lots of crappy minis
Piss-poor paints
Asinine dice system that could have been replaced with three dice and a little easy math
Crappy combat system all around

Maybe in the future, instead of reviewing when I'm angry, I'll just buy one of these: