Category Archives: Game Night

Situation Report: Fall 2009

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things…

—Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and The Carpenter” (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There)

There may not be a whole lot of activity here in my little corner of this here series of tubes, but life does not stop when a person fails to update his blog regularly. To wit:

The Secret Lair

The Secret LairThe podcast is still going strong, with a new episode appearing every few weeks or so, and a new installment of our webcomic appearing only slightly less frequently. In the most recent illustrated adventure, which I shall henceforth refer to as the Irradiated Arachnid Incident, the side effects of a spider-bite are not what you might expect. Meanwhile, Chris and I managed to convince our wives (yes, there was alcohol involved) to join us in a discussion of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, that book they made into that movie with that one guy. We also sat down with Mick Bradley, with whom we have had dealings in the past, to discuss that most mysterious and misunderstood style of roleplaying, the story game.

Recent episodes of the podcast have featured staff reports from some creative (and incredibly generous) folks we are fortunate to call friends, those being Dr. John Cmar, Jay “Kingfish” Lynn, Natalie Metzger and Ken Newquist. These reports speak of schemes of ever-escalating complexity and crackpottedness, with a smattering of bizarre truth thrown in to blur the line between the real and the surreal.

Game Night

Approximately every two weeks, the gamers descend upon the International House of Johnson for one form of interactive entertainment or another. We’re currently in the middle of a Savage Worlds campaign run by Chris Miller, but last night we took a break from polyhedral dice and roleplaying to rock.

Live at the International House of Johnson - Photo by David MeadArmed with fake guitars, fake drums and a very real microphone, we took to the virtual stage in Rock Band 2 on the Xbox 360. Four adults and the aforementioned fake instruments do not fit particularly will into the area around our “entertainment center”, but that didn’t dissuade us in the slightest. Some of the songs we rocked out to:

  •  “Re: Your Brains” and “Skullcrusher Mountain” by Jonathan Coulton
  • “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • “Here it Goes Again” by OK Go
  • “Take it on the Run” by REO Speedwagon
  • “The Best Day Ever” by Spongebob Squarepants (featuring guest vocalist Kyle Abraham Johnson)
  • “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull (featuring Chris Miller on vocals and no one on the fake flute)

After the out-rocking concluded, we gathered at the dining room table for Monty Python Fluxx, followed by Fist of Dragonstones, the latter of which I thought was woefully underappreciated.

Olde Fartz

After a bit of a late-summer hiatus, the Olde Fartz Distance Learning Center is back in session. Our favorite game of late has been Half-Life 2 Deathmatch, though we did return to our roots for an evening of WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos a few weeks ago. There’s also talk of playing some Team Fortress 2 and Dungeon Siege, and P.G. Holyfiend keeps yammering about Sins of a Solar Empire, too. Yammering, I tell you. Enrollment in the Olde Fartz has increased to the point where we have abandoned Skype voice conferencing in favor of a TeamSpeak server. If you’re interested in joining the fun, drop me a line and I’ll take your application to the admissions committee.

Con on the Cob

Con on the CobLast year I managed to attend all four days of Con on the Cob, a local gaming, art and general geek convention. This year, Laura and I only attended on Saturday, but we still had a lot of fun. We both bought new dice (practically a con requirement) and I bought Dominion, an excellent card game from Rio Grande Games. ((Laura and I have played several times since the convention, but the four-player limit means it’s tough to include at Game Night (when we typically have six or seven people). There’s one expansion to the game (Intrigue) with a second (Seaside) on the way, both adding cards and allowing for additional players, so it might just grace the Game Night table someday soon.)) We watched a bit of the Iron Artist competition, then briefly fled to a nearby restaurant with Chris Miller and Rachel Ross for dinner, then it was back to the con for a couple of games of Dominion. Next year, I think we’re going to shoot for attending on both Friday and Saturday so we can do a little more gaming and maybe record an episode of The Secret Lair on-site.

Alas, I have no convention photos to share this year, as the battery charger for our Fujifilm Finepix J10 went AWOL right before my sister’s wedding. ((Did I mention that my sister got married? And we drove to Chicago for the wedding? And that Kyle wore suspenders? And that the bride and groom were joined “by the power of the Internet”? No? I should have. Sorry.)) A new charger has been purchased and will hopefully be delivered in time for Hallowe’en costume photos.

NaNoWriMo vs. NaBloPoMo vs. HoNoToGroABeMo

I have no intention of attempting to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days come November, nor will I make any real effort to post at least one blog entry a day in the same time period. On the other hand, I fully intend to shave off my beard on October 31st and then spend a month failing to grow anything resembling a manly face-mane. That’s right, for the third year running, How Not to Grow A Beard Month will return. Mega-kudos once again to The Cynical Optimist for creating and maintaining the website.

The Great Superhero Movie Project

Despite a general dearth of new reviews, I have been watching and rating various superhero movies over the past few months. There are currently 112 movies on the list (with more to be added soon); I’ve seen about 90 of them, rated about 60 and reviewed a paltry 11. Yeah, I have a bit of catching up to do in the review department.

Game Night: Outbreak!

Game Night Badge courtesy of FreshBadge.comIt seemed like any other Game Night: Chris was running us through another session of his homebrew campaign (based heavily on the world of Amber, created by Roger Zelazny), we were spending about as much time on conversational tangents as actual roleplaying, and there was cake.

A Tuesday night like many before it, until the deep, concussive sound of an explosion rattled the windows of the International House of Johnson.

“What the—?”

“Holy—!”

“Was that—?”

Dave, Chris and I ran for the front door. Laura turned on the television and tuned to the local news on Channel 5. Rachel sent a message to Twitter from her cell phone; 140 characters announcing to the Internet that something nearby had exploded.

We scanned the treeline and saw it: a large mushroom cloud—too small to be nuclear; besides which we’d already be dead if it was—to the northeast, somewhere near the junction of Route 2 and SOM Center Road. No sooner had we registered the cloud than we heard the screaming. People all through the cul-de-sac had come out of their homes and the sounds of agony surrounded us. We watched in horror as across the street Rick fell to his knees, his face a mass of hideous, black blisters that burst and sprayed a tar-like substance over the pristine concrete pad of his driveway. Something in the house next door exploded, a soft whump followed by the shattering of windows…then flames licking toward the early evening sky from inside.

The idea that I should attempt to extinguish the fire was pushed to the back of my mind by more screaming, this time from right behind me. I turned to find Dave in the grip of some unseen agony. Unseen, that is, until his shirt split at the seams and I caught a glimpse of green scales. I took a step back and nearly tripped over whatever it was that now occupied Chris’ t-shirt and khaki shorts. The thing—gelatinous and translucent, seemed to melt, oozing out of—no…no absorbing—the clothes and coalescing into an amorphous blob that slid down the gentle slope of my lawn toward the street, leaving a wide scar of burned grass in its wake.

Dave was on the ground now, writhing and twisting as his body expanded well beyond the capacity of his clothes. I took another look…and ran. Ran away from the horrors that used to be my friends and back toward the house.

There was no question about what had just happened: somehow, somewhere nearby the wild card virus had been released in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland. Rick—and most of my other neighbors, it seemed—had drawn the Black Queen: a mutation that meant death, usually a very, very painful death. The same appeared to be true of Chris, while Dave had probably drawn a Joker as the virus invaded his body. A Joker meant that Dave would live, though whether that made him better off than those who didn’t might be a matter of perspective; the virus didn’t kill him, but it was mutating him into something that probably wouldn’t resemble a human being for much longer.

I dreaded what I would find inside. There was no screaming from, but that could mean that Laura had drawn the Black Queen, too. No, there she was, very much alive and looking very much like Laura. She was  kneeling over a prone figure on the floor.

Rachel, like Dave, had drawn a Joker. A spiral horn had erupted from her forehead, and I couldn’t help but think of unicorns…and faeries—a pair of gossamer wings spread from between her shoulderblades. Her hair was longer, too, at least waist-length and a rich red in hue.

Laura saw me then, and we quickly reassured one another that we were fine, though Laura said she felt “weird”. (I chalked it up to the fact that something had blown up near our neighborhood and our friends were mutating into bizarre conglomerations from J.R.R. Tolkien’s nightmares.)

“We have to get Rachel to a hospital,” Laura said.

My mind raced in a hundred different directions at once, but I couldn’t focus on a clear course of action. I nodded, glad to have the decision made for me. I half-lifted, half-dragged the unconscious Rachel to the front door.

“Where’s Chris?” Laura asked. “His van is blocking the driveway, we’ll have to take it to the hospital.”

“I…I think Chris is dead,” I said. “He…he melted.”

“Take…my…Humvee.”

I whirled toward the source of the pained, gutteral words. Dave was on all fours, doubled over in pain. Scaly protrusions outlined the ridge of his spine and a thick, green tail jutted from just below the small of his back.

Dave’s gas-guzzling, military-inspired monstrosity was parked on the curb. The keys were in the shredded remains of his pants and Laura, when she recovered from seeing the ex-Navy SEAL transformed into a human-lizard hybrid, retrieved them with trembling fingers.

I shouldered Rachel into the back seat, then went back to help Dave. He was impossibly heavy; there was no way I’d be able to even drag him across the lawn, much less lift him into the vehicle. He fought through the pain, staggering to his feet and stumbling toward the Humvee.

“Drive!” he muttered, climbing into the back seat next to Rachel. The Humvee listed as Dave managed to somehow cram himself—tail and all—into the back seat. Laura climbed into the front passenger seat as I pulled the driver’s door closed.

I hadn’t driven a standard transmission in at least ten years, but necessity trumped nerves and seconds later the Humvee was swinging around the cul-de-sac and roaring toward Euclid Avenue.

I uttered a curse—probably several—and slammed on the brakes. Euclid was a snarled mess of cars and trucks, some trying to maneuver toward East 305th Street, others stalled or crashed and now blocking traffic, their drivers either dead at the wheel or having abandoned the vehicle in the street. As bad as it had been in the cul-de-sac, it was a thousand times worse on the most traveled surface street in Lake County. Horns honked, people shouted (or screamed, as the Black Queen took her sweet time finishing a few of the unlucky ones off) and a logjam of steel and fiberglass stretched out in both directions.

It took me a moment to free myself from my usual minivan mindset and realize that I was driving a Humvee. I shifted into four-wheel drive and pushed the big truck into the fray. Metal shrieked, glass broke and rubber stuttered on concrete as I pushed cars out of my way, not caring whether their occupants were alive or not. Ploughing toward the opposite side of Euclid Avenue, I finally encountered an obstacle that the seemingly-irresistable Humvee would not move: a large black SUV.

I uttered another curse and felt the Humvee rock on its suspension as Dave hauled his bulk out of the back door. Slack-jawed, I watched as Dave—at least eight feet tall now—gripped the rear bumper of the Escalade and lifted. The SUV rocked and I recovered my wits enough to let my foot off the Humvee’s brake. With Dave’s help, I pushed the Escalade onto its side and we were able to squeeze past it.

We ploughed along, parallel to Euclid Avenue, cutting through the parking lots of a lawn tractor dealership, a bar and grill, a convenient store. Dave added his power to that of the Humvee when our forward progress was arrested and we rolled through—and in one case, over—the dozens of parked cars between us and East 305th Street.

It took us an hour to reach Route 2, the freeway I hoped would whisk us to downtown Cleveland and The Cleveland Clinic, but the sight we found when we finally crossed the railroad tracks made my heart sink: a virtual lake of vehicles, none of them moving, many of them sporting familiar red-and-blue flashing lights. Route 2, and by extension The Cleveland Clinic, was simply out of reach; we were going nowhere.


With apologies to Chris Miller. We didn’t mean to kill you, really.
Wild Cards CakeThe Game: Wild Cards, a Mutants & Masterminds sourcebook from Green Ronin Publishing. Written by John Joseph Miller and designed by Steve Kenson.

Wild Cards is based on the series of novels by the same name, edited by George R.R. Martin and featuring stories by Melinda Snodgrass, Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, John Joseph Miller and many more.

On September 15, 1946, the alien xenovirus known as Takis-A was released over an unsuspecting New York City. The virus killed most it infected instantly, while a lucky few were granted superhuman abilities and others were horribly mutated.

On August 26, 2008, a new outbreak of Takis-A occurred in the east suburbs of Cleveland. How the virus was released is not yet known, but northeast Ohio will never be the same…

GM: Gus “I don’t exist in this reality” Gosselin
Players: Dave “Scales” Berg, Kris “I Feel Fine” Johnson, Laura “I Feel Funny” Johnson and Rachel “@TheInternet OMG, Something Just Exploded!” Ross.

Up Next: Aces! (Session 1, Part 2)

Savage Worlds: Meet Mack Noland

Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley
image-778
If you’re at all curious about the character generation process in Savage Worlds, this entry may be of interest to you. I’m going to describe in detail how I went about creating Mack Noland prior to our first gaming session. If you’re the type of person who cringes at the thought of hearing about someone else’s roleplaying game character, you’re probably going to want to give this post a wide berth and come back a little later in the week.

I make no guarantee that I did this the right way, but I followed the character generation guidelines in the core rulebook to the best of my abilities. Experienced Savage Worlds players should feel free to point out any areas where I may have mis-stepped.

The first step in character generation is choosing a Race. The game Gus is running is set in New York, New York on our fair planet of Earth sometime in the 1930s, so the only Race available was (presumably) human. Thus, Mack Noland is a genuine human being, and that means his first Edge is free. More on that in a bit.

The next step is Traits, which are made up of Attributes, Skills and Derived Statistics.

The five Attributes are Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength and Vigor. Each Attribute begins at a base level of d4 and costs 1 point to raise to the next level (d6, d8, d10 and d12). Starting characters get five points toward adjusting their stats, and this is how Mack’s Attributes looked initially:

Agility d6 (1 point)
Smarts d8 (2 points)
Spirit d6 (1 point)
Strength d6 (1 point)
Vigor d4 (no change)

Instead of choosing Skills next, I decided to pick Mack’s Hindrances, those physical and personality flaws that are going to make life interesting for him. Each Hindrance is classified as major or minor, depending upon how much impact it will have on the character’s life. Characters can have as many Hindrances as the player wants, but they only get “points” for one major Hindrance and two minor Hindrances. These points can be used to raise attributes, get additional starting funds, buy additional Edges, or add Skill points. Mack’s Hindrances are as follows:

  • Lame. While on the police force, Mack was wounded in the line of duty. The bullet is still lodged deep in his right leg, so Mack walks with a pronounced limp and carries a cane with him where ever he goes. This is classified as a major Hindrance and reduces Mack’s Pace (one of the Derived Stats) by 2.
  • Ugly. Never a pretty boy to begin with, Mack had a rough-and-tumble life as a young lad on the streets of the Big Apple. His nose is markedly crooked, having been broken twice in street brawls, and he sports a jagged, white scar on his left cheek, stretching from the outside corner of his left eye to just above his jawline. This is a minor Hindrance and gives Mack a -2 to his Charisma (another Derived Stat).
  • Doubting Thomas. Mack doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be punched, stabbed or shot. Thanks to this minor Hindrance, Mack will suffer a -2 penalty to Guts rolls when confronted with supernatural horrors that he cannot deny.

Once Mack’s Hindrances were assigned, I used the 2 points I gained from the major Hindrance to bump his Spirit Attribute from d6 to d8. Mack’s final Attributes are as follows:

Agility d6
Smarts d8
Spirit d8
Strength d6
Vigor d4

Next it was time to choose a number of Skills for my disgraced-cop-turned-private-investigator. Starting characters get 15 points of Skills, to which I added the 2 remaining points I gained from Mack’s minor Hindrances. Each Skill is tied to an Attribute, and buying and/or raising a Skill costs one point per die-level (the levels again: d4, d6, d8, d10 and d12), and raising a Skill beyond the level of the corresponding attribute costs 2 points per level. Mack’s Skills are:

Driving (Agility) d6 (2 points)
Fighting (Agility) d6 (2 points)
Gambling (Smarts) d4 (1 point)
Guts (Spirit) d8 (3 points)
Investigation (Smarts) d8 (3 points)
Lockpicking (Agility) d4 (1 point)
Shooting (Agility) d6 (2 points)
Streetwise (Smarts) d8 (3 points)

Once the Skills were selected, I calculated Mack’s Derived Stats: Pace, Parry, Toughness and Charisma. The base value for Pace is 6, but Mack is Lame, so his Pace is reduced to 4. Parry is calculated by adding 2 to half of the Fighting Skill (2 + 3), so Mack’s Parry is 5. Toughness is 2 plus half of the Vigor Attribute (2 + 2), so Mack’s Toughness is 4. Finally, Charisma has a base value of 0; Mack is Ugly, so his Charisma is -2.

As a Human, Mack gets one free Edge, and I chose Investigator, which gives him a +2 bonus on all Investigation and Streetwise rolls, as well as a +2 bonus to Notice rolls made while searching through evidence. Each Edge has some prerequisites, and Mack’s Attributes and Skills were specifically geared toward meeting those: Smarts d8+, Investigation d8+ and Streetwise d8+. The character Rank requirement for Investigator is Novice, which is the Rank at which all new characters start.

Once all the numbers were in place, the only remaining tasks were to buy Gear and flesh out Mack’s background. New characters get $500 in starting currency, so I equipped Mack with a Smith & Wesson .44 revolver, a blackjack, brass knuckles, a lighter, a cigarette case, street clothes, a cane, and just under two hundred bucks of folding money.

As for the background, most of the significant details had come into light while I was assigning Attributes, Skills, Hindrances and Edges. He’s a grizzled private investigator who used to be a member of the NYPD until he was forced into early retirement following a bribery scandal. Mack was innocent, and the charges of accepting bribes were never proved, but his reputation was ruined and upper brass used his old injury as an excuse to force him to retire, then took advantage of a clever loophole to deny him his pension. Down but not out, Mack got a private investigator’s license and his since gained a reputation among his former colleagues as a royal pain in the ass, owing mostly to his uncanny ability to spot the clues that the police detectives overlook and beat them to their crime-solving punch.

Gamestuff: Savage Worlds, Session 1

Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy HensleyChris, Gus and I got together last night to play Savage Worlds a role-playing game by Shane Lacy Hensley, published by Great White Games. I picked up a copy of the core rulebook at Con on the Cob last year, Chris picked up the Explorer’s GuideThe Explorer’s Guide is essentially the same content, with errata and updates, as the core rulebook at a third of the price. I’m not bitter. At all. at Origins in July, and Gus downloaded the Explorer’s Guide last week.

Gus volunteered to run the game early this week, specifying that the setting would be New York City sometime in the 1930’s/1940’s and we’d be playing in the pulp/action/horror genre. Chris and I spent an hour or so last night generating our characters and finished up just as Gus arrived.

Chris is Templeton Dirge, a professor of the occult at New York University. Dirge is everything a professor of the occult should be: arrogant, filthy rich and British. He’s smooth and sophisticated, has a keen eye for detail, and just might be a handy guy to have around when fists and bullets start flying.

I am Mack NolandMack didn’t have a last name until Gus called him “Mack No-Last-Name”. I grabbed the first letters of each word, and declared that his full name was “Mack Nolan”. That was a bit to close to Mack “The Executioner” Bolan for my liking, so I tacked a “d” on the end., a grizzled ex-cop turned even-more-grizzled private investigator. Mack walks with a limp, looks like he’s been on the wrong end of a baseball bat and a carving knife a couple of times, and doesn’t buy into any of this spooky supernatural horsepuckey. On the other hand, he’s a damn good private dick and he’s packing heat.

As our story begins, the Professor and the P.I. are complete strangers, but a mysterious postcard from none other than John D. Rockefeller summons both men to the famed industrialist’s stately manor to discuss the acquisition of “a book”.

Met at the door by a butler, Dirge and Noland are ushered to Rockefeller’s library and informed that the master of the house will join them shortly. While the Professor peruses the impressive collection of literature, the Gumshoe smokes a cigarette and makes himself comfortable in an armchair that likely cost more than the annual rent for his office and apartment combined.

Moments later, the butler returns, explaining that Mr. Rockefeller has been delayed and offering refreshments. Ever the gentleman, Dirge requests a cup of hot Earl Grey tea, while Noland gruffly demands a glass of whiskey. The beverages arrive in a matter of moments, and an uncomfortable silence occupies the room while both men sip their drinks.

As the last of the whiskey burns its way down Noland’s throat, there is a disturbance in the front hall. A loud pounding on the manor’s front door precedes an equally-loud demand that the door be opened, on no less authority than that of the New York City Police Department.

Neither Dirge nor Noland makes a move to open the door—surely that’s the domain of Rockefeller’s manservant—but after it becomes abundantly clear that the butler has no intention of fulfilling his duties and the police make their intent to batter the door down if necessary, the P.I. sets his empty whiskey glass down, exits the library, and opens the door…to find the barrels of five service revolvers and one Lieutenant Bill Dillinger—a familiar face indeed—staring back at him.

The Occultist and the Gumshoe quickly explain their presence at the Rockefeller manor, turning the mysterious postcards over to Lt. Dillinger, who reports that they’ve received word of a disturbance. Dillinger crosses to Rockefeller’s study and opens the door, then invites Noland to have a look in the room. Instinct tells the P.I. what the Lieutenant already knows: John D. Rockefeller lies dead on the floor, a bullet hole in the center of his forehead. Around the bloody hole, someone—presumably the killer—has drawn a large, black spider. The gruesome sight stirs a dim recollection in Noland’s mind, something about a vigilante killer dispatching criminals in a similar fashion and leaving the eight-legged embellishment as his macabre calling card.

Dillinger confirms Noland’s suspicions, mentioning a series of killings attributed to an outlaw the police refer to as “The Spider”. “But,” the Lieutenant says, “this guy only kills criminals, and Rockefeller’s clean. No ties to the mob whatsoever.”

Noland sneers at this. “You and I both know, Bill, when we’re talking about as much money as Johnny’s got, there’s always something stinking up the cellar.”

Dillinger places both men under arrest and Noland turns his Smith & Wesson .44 over to the boys in blue, noting that the chamber is fully loaded and the gun clearly hasn’t been recently fired. Dirge is unarmed, and while he is being frisked his keen eye spots something out of sorts on the desk: a rectangular area, roughly the size of a book, conspicuously absent of dust.

“Looks like the butler hasn’t been doing is job,” Noland comments gruffly.

“That’s just it,” Dillinger replies, “the butler was let go weeks ago.” Rockefeller, it seems, has yet to hire a replacement.

“Are you going to come along quietly” asks Dillinger, “or do I need to have the boys cuff you?”

Noland and Dirge agree to cooperate and Dillinger forgoes the handcuffs.

As the police escort their suspects out of the manor, a shot rings out in the darkness and one of the Lieutenant’s men collapses. A second shot fells another flatfoot and Dillinger barks at his men to retreat. Noland and Dirge duck behind the tall pillars outside the double doors leading into the house as a third shot catches another of the officers in the shoulder.

“Hey, Mack,” Lt. Dillinger yells, perhaps coming to the realization that his suspects are telling the truth. “You want your gun back?”

Noland responds in the affirmative and a second later his trusty .44 is soaring through the air in a graceful arc. The Detective snatches the revolver out of the air, then follows Dirge back into the house.

The Professor, unarmed and recognizing that he has nothing to add to this particular fracas, ducks into the study to get a better look at the crime scene. Meanwhile, Noland races to the library, returning a moment later with a lit kerosene lantern. Running out onto the front steps of the manor, the P.I. lobs the lantern into the darkness, hoping to shed a little light on the scene and perhaps reveal their attacker. Alas, Noland isn’t a young man anymore, and the limp he sports as a result of a gunshot wound suffered in his days on the force slows him down; the lantern doesn’t fly as far as he’d hoped, and when it lands, the kerosene lights the hedge lining the driveway ablaze.

After a few tense moments it appears that the gunman (or woman) has fled, so Dillinger’s men assist their wounded comrade to their patrol car and the Lieutenant returns to the manor. The attacker has been playing possum, however, and the next bullet catches Dillinger in the shoulder. Returning from the study, Dirge hauls the Lieutenant into the safety of the house while Noland closes the door behind them. A moment later the sound of two explosions comes from outside, muffled by the manor’s thick walls, and Noland surmises that the police cars parked in the driveway have been obliterated, along with their unfortunate occupants.

Dirge and Noland drag the wounded Dillinger into the library, where the Professor attempts to staunch the bleeding while Noland’s attempts to ring the police are stymied by a decidedly dead phone line. Satisfied that the unconscious policeman won’t bleed to death before help arrives, Dirge suggests that finding another way out of the house may be in order. Noland agrees, but before leaving the library he retrieves the postcards from Dillinger’s jacket pocket and Dirge avails himself of the incapacitated lawman’s service revolver.

The two men conduct a quick search of the ground floor and find what appears to be a servant’s entrance near the kitchen. Gun drawn, Noland kicks open the door only to find a beautiful, frightened woman hiding behind it. Sensing that the situation requires far more finesse (and, quite frankly, charm) than the P.I. is capable of, Dirge intercedes and attempts to calm the blonde, berobed damsel. “Put the gun away,” the Occultist advises, “and fetch the young lady a drink, won’t you?”

“Oh, I’m the butler, now?” Noland grumbles, but holsters his revolver and returns to the study, where he breaks into Rockefeller’s well-stocked liquor cabinet and pours a generous glass of brandy.

The booze seems to have a calming effect on the distressed dame, and as she starts to sip her second glass of brandy, she finally speaks. Her name, as coincidence would have it, is Brandy, and she knows something about a book; specifically the Book of the Dead.

“Sumerian or Egyptian?” Dirge asks, surprising the woman with his knowledge of the subject.

As the Occultist and the Damsel discuss the nuances of necronomica, the trio adjourns to the study, where Noland notices that Brandy—if her confused glances at the empty spot on Rockefeller’s desk are any indication—had expected to find a (if not the) book.

Brandy is caught off-guard when the Gumshoe confronts her, but nothing could have prepared either of them for the next words to come out of Templeton Dirge’s mouth.

“Brandy, my dear,” the Professor says, smirking slightly, “your hair seems to be somewhat askance.”

Instantly, Brandy’s demeanor changes. Before either man can react, the young woman peels back a blonde wig to reveal a head of short, brunette hair. In the same motion, she shrugs out of her all-concealing robe and draws a pistol from the shoulder holster on the form-fitting flight suit she wears beneath it.

Dirge persuades Brandy to lower her weapon and offers his postcard as evidence that—whatever her business with Rockefeller and the Book of the Dead may be—he and Noland are not involved and neither man means her any harm.

Brandy tells Dirge that the book missing from Rockefeller’s desk is a diary believed to contain the location of the original Egyptian Book of the Dead.

The trio moves their conversation into the library and the Professor is in the process of checking the dressing on Dillinger’s wound when Brandy draws her revolver again, aiming the weapon at the incapacitated officer. Dirge positions himself in the line of fire and Noland levels his .44 at Brandy.

“You don’t understand,” she protests. “He’s here for the book, too!”

This time it is Noland who persuades Brandy to lower her gun. The lieutenant clearly isn’t a threat in his current condition, and it’s a bit much to ask the Detective to take the dame’s word against an old colleague’s. Brandy holsters her pistol once more, then cocks her head to one side. “Listen,” she says. “Do you hear that?”

The sound of approaching sirens would normally be a welcome one, but Brandy insists that they must all flee before additional law enforcement personnel descend upon the manor. Against his better judgment, Noland agrees to accompany Brandy, but not before leaving a hastily scrawled note for the unconscious Lt. Dillinger: Bill. We didn’t do it. Really. Mack.

Any compunctions Templeton Dirge might have about fleeing the scene of a crime are overwhelmed by the idea that he might actually be on the trail of the original Egyptian Book of the Dead. He, too, agrees to go with Brandy, and soon the trio is roaring away from the Rockefeller estate in the raven-haired beauty’s sporty roadster.

To be continued…

Geekstuff: May 2007 Roundup

One of these days I’m going to write another real blog entry, but for now a little of the stuff that’s currently flipping my geek switch will have to suffice.

Star Wars Roleplaying Game. My copy of the core rulebook for the new “Saga Edition” has been shipped from Amazon and should arrive in a few days. I’m looking forward to digging into this one, as from most accounts the changes made by Wizards of the Coast make for faster, more cinematic gameplay than was possible using previous editions. Ken Newquist has posted a review on SciFi.com and more thoughts in two separate Nuketown posts.

Game Night. On the 29th, Chris Miller, Miscellaneous G™ and I got together intending to play Primetime Adventures, the roleplaying game in which players create a television series then roleplay episodes of the same. We got a little carried away during the creation phase and before we ever got around to deciding who our major protagonists would be we had outlined the major story arc for season one leading up to and including the cliffhanger season finale. I’m not sure whether we’re going to pull it back into Primetime Adventures or take it in another direction, but it was three solid hours of a very interesting creative vibe and we could all see a lot of potential in the end result.

Habeas Corpses by Wm. Mark Simmons. I bought this book at the airport in Oklahoma City because I didn’t relish the idea of three hours on two planes with nothing to read. Had I realized that Habeas Corpses is the third book in a series, I definitely would have bought something else. As it was, I was in a bit of a hurry and the cover doesn’t in any way indicate that it’s part of a seriesNot that I saw anything on the cover but cleavage and bare midriff., so I put my money on the counter and rushed to my gate. It’s a decent read that involves, vampires, werewolves, Native American tribal spirits and Nazis. I would give it a wholehearted recommendation except for one thing: the puns. I could understand giving the protagonist a propensity for punnery, but it seems like every one of Simmons’ characters spews puns left and right and after a while it just gets annoying and detracts from the story.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth. This is quite simply the best movie I’ve seen in recent memory. Over the past few evenings, Laura and I have been watching Pan’s Labyrinth with director Guillermo del Toro’s audio commentary. It’s clear that this project was a labor of love for del Toro, and his commentary explores everything from mythical elements in the story to how scenes were lit to how Doug Jones’ faun makeup changes during the course of the film. Unfortunately, del Toro has a voice that puts Laura to sleep after about fifteen minutes, so it’s taking us a bit longer than usual to get through the commentary track.

Game Night: 15 May 2007 – Marvel Heroes (Part 1)

Marvel Heroes
image-621
I think I’m going to build a Gamesignal and install it on the roof above the garage, with a switch downstairs in my office. Then when I want the Game Night crew to assemble I’ll just flip the switch, a powerful beam of light will bisect the sky and our emblem ((Note to self: we need an emblem; and a theme song.)) will shine brightly in the darkness for all to see, ((Projected on the … uh… stratosphere, I guess; or perhaps a giant screen in geosynchronous orbit.)) signaling Chris, Gus, Jeff and Miscellaneous G™ that the time of the gaming is upon us.

Yeah, that’s definitely the way to go.

As it stands, Game Night is coordinated via e-mail, which seems pretty mundane by comparison. Unfortunately, due to some manner of SMTP wormhole or IMAP confuddlement, Jeff didn’t receive confirmation that Game Night was go for launch on Tuesday and he was understandably absent. I’ve got to believe the Gamesignal would be far more reliable.

Miscellaneous G™ and Chris arrived at the International House of Johnson shortly after 7:00 and gaming commenced around 8:00, following consumption of various snacks and chitting of various chats. We decided upon Marvel Heroes, foolishly thinking that we could complete an entire game before Gus’ scheduled 9:00 arrival time. As it was, we hadn’t quite managed to finish an entire game round before Gus arrived. We briefly considered switching to something else, but then decided to simply deal Gus into the game already in progress.

The idea behind Marvel Heroes is fairly simple: each player commands a team of heroes who troubleshoot mysterious occurrences (called Headlines) in and around Manhattan. Successfully troubleshooting a Headline means collecting Victory Points; failing means the heroes get sent home with their web-shooters or adamantium claws between their legs (embarrassing and uncomfortable).

Unlike Arkham Horror, another Fantasy Flight title we’ve played at Game Night, players in Marvel Heroes aren’t cooperating with one another to overcome a common foe, they’re competing against each other for Victory Points. It wouldn’t do to have the heroes battling one another, though, so to aid in foiling their opponents each player controls a Master Villain — the nemesis of the team to his or her right.

We began by assigning Hero teams and Master Villains as follows:

  • Miscellaneous G™: The Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk). The Avengers’ nemesis,The Red Skull, was controlled by Chris.
  • Chris: The Marvel Knights (Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Daredevil and Elektra). The Marvel Knights’ nemesis, Kingpin, was controlled by KJToo.
  • KJToo: The Fantastic Four (Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Thing and Human Torch). The Fantastic Four’s nemesis, Dr. Doom, was controlled by Miscellaneous G™.

Teams assigned, it was time to get cracking. The basic unit of the game is the Game Round, which is broken into three phases: Setup, Planning and Mission.

During the Setup phase, the game board is prepared. In the first round, six new Headlines are placed on the board (one for each area of Manhattan), four Story cards are dealt onto the Story track, and various tokens — indicating such things as the current Game Round, Victory Points for each team and Trouble Level — are placed on their appropriate tracks. In subsequent rounds, the Story track is advanced, the Game Round advances, and Headline cards are dealt into locations that were investigated in the previous round.

The planning phase is where all the strategy takes place; well, in theory, anyway. Team receive Plot Points based on a number of factors and spend those points to activate heroes and play Ally cards. The idea is to activate heroes whose skills and troubleshooting levels best suit one or more of the available Headlines.

Right. Boring. Where are the epic battles? Where are all the shield-throwing, web-slinging, Hulk smashing, eyebeam-shooting beatdowns?

Fear not, true believer! Once we get past all the setup and strategery…it’s clobberin’ time!

The Mission phase is all about applying boots to the posterior and taking note of monikers. Okay, there’s some other stuff going on (like moving heroes, healing heroes and such), but it really boils down to action. In fact, each Mission phase is broken into five Action Rounds. Typically, the first action is to move your team to a location and the second action is to introduce your heroes’ fists to some villains’ faces.

In the first round, Miscellaneous G™ sent Thor and Iron Man to Lower Manhattan, Chris sent Elektra and Spidey to Brooklyn, and I sent Mr. and Mrs. Reed Richards to The Village. Instead of troubleshooting in the second round, Miscellaneous G™ chose to take a Story Action and build up his hand. The real action started with Chris’ turn when Elektra investigated rumors of mutant monsters prowling the sewers beneath Brooklyn.

Any time a player troubleshoots a headline, all the other players have an opportunity to play cards (Villains and Agents) that make it more difficult for the hero to triumph. When Elektra descended into the sewers, she didn’t find mutants waiting for her there; she found The Vulture, a Villain card that I played from my hand. Once a Villain has been played, he or she becomes the Lead Villain for that encounter, and the other players can play additional cards as backup effects — cards that allow the Lead Villain to use sneaky tricks during combat to gain an advantage or otherwise inhibit the hero.

Unfortunately, The Vulture is an old man, and apparently senile to boot. Why he chose to confront Elektra in the confines of the sewer rather than engaging in an aerial battle amidst the towering skyscrapers high above is anyone’s guess, but the end result was a trip back to Codgerville Prison and Chris picking up several Victory Points.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, the ever-elastic Mr. Fantastic investigated the origins of a mysterious column of energy, only to find that it was yet another fiendish plot by Latverian dictator and Darth Vader wannabe, Dr. Doom.Never mind that Dr. Doom made his first appearance fifteen years before Darth Vader. Though the bad doctor wasn’t actually present, his machinations were felt in the form of an increased Trouble Level — one of several ways in which a Master Villain can attempt to alter the outcome of a Mastermind Headline. Miscellaneous G™ (controlling Dr. Doom) could also have opted to arrange a direct encounter between Mr. Fantastic and the Master Villain, but chose not to; instead, Chris played Avalanche as the Lead Villain and Miscellaneous G™ threw the Crimson Dynamo into the mix as a backup effect.

Much to Doom’s dismay—not to mention Miscellaneous G™’s, as his disdain for Mr. Fantastic is the stuff of legends—Avalanche proved to be no match for the leader of the Fantastic Four, and I collected the sweet, sweet Victory Points. It was a promising start for me, but little did I know how quickly my fortunes would take a turn for the worse.

When Thor arrived on the scene in Lower Manhattan to investigate reports of a UFO crash, instead of little green men he found a big green-and-yellow man: Electro. For those who may not know, Electro’s claim to infamy is his ability to manipulate electricity, while Thor is the Norse god of thunder who wields the enchanted Uru hammer, Mjolnir, and says “thee” a lot. Smart money was on Thor, and the son of Odin did not disappoint, leaving the only real question whether I should say that he hammered, nailed, or pounded Electro.

Chris, meanwhile, had moved Elektra to Queens, where she found several horribly mutilated bodies… and Hydro-Man. Now, Hydro-Man is essentially made of living liquid and can control nearby bodies of water. Even so, he’s still a second-rate villain in the Marvel Universe. Elektra, on the other hand, is a Greek ninja assassin ((No, seriously, Elektra is a Greek ninja. And an assassin. A Greek ninja assassin. Oh, and her last name is Natchios, which doesn’t sound at all like “nachos”.)) who was killed by Bullseye and then came back from the dead. That’s pretty badass. On the other other hand, Hydro-Man was being assisted by one Mortimer Toynbee, also known as The Toad. The combination of Hydro-Man and His Amphibious Friend proved too much for poor Elektra, and the villains (wait for it) mopped the floor with her.

Elektra’s ignominious defeat marked the end of Game Round One, as well as the arrival of Gus. Rather than abandoning the game in progress, we decided to give Gus the X-Men, shuffle the nemeses around a bit, and continue the ongoing battle for truth, justice, and a slogan that didn’t belong to a competing comic book company. Excelsior!

Gus sat to my left and took Dr. Doom’s green hoodie from Miscellaneous G™, who in turn donned the maroon-and-purple helmetAbsolutely not double entendre. of Magneto, the Master of Magnetism. Our musical chairs mini-game complete, we proceeded to Game Round Two.

To be continued…

Game Night: 24 April 2007 – Marvel Heroes

I had planned to do a complete session report for Marvel Heroes, the strategy board game by Fantasy Flight Games, but thanks to a long day at work on Wednesday I didn’t get to it right away and most of the details have evaporated. Instead of a full session report, here are some of the highlights I do remember:

  • Unlikely Outcomes: When the Green Goblin goes up against The Incredible Hulk, the end result should be one squished goblin. Thanks to some truly awful dice rolling, it was the Hulk who wound up taking a powder, while the Goblin went on to threaten Iron Man. Also unusual: Avalanche beat down Wolverine and the Dread Dormammu sent Captain America packing. Some of this was due to bad dice rolls, but there was also some excellent use of villains as backups, which allowed for re-rolling, stats enhancement and other sneaky tricks.
  • Awesome Soundtrack: Gus scoured his music collection to put together a excellent playlist of superhero theme songs (Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, The Greatest American Hero) and superhero-themed songs (“Superman’s Song” by Crash Test Dummies, “Superman” by Five For Fighting, and “Ode to a Superhero” an excellent parody of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” by Weird Al Yankovic).
  • Cheap Victory: I led the Uncanny X-Men (Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Jean Gray) to victory in our first game, but a review of the rules between games revealed that I had interpreted one of the key rules incorrectly, giving me the Arch-Nemesis token throughout the game when it should have gone to Gus or Miscellaneous G™.
  • The Learning Curve: It’s not all that difficult to learn Marvel Heroes, but we were all starting from scratch and it took me most of the first game to get used to the turn sequences and all the various phases and sub-phases within each turn. As a result, the game felt a little flat to me. It wasn’t until the middle of the second game that we really started to understand how Mastermind Villains worked (and even after two games we’d never had a hero and a Mastermind Villain go head-to-head in combat).

I definitely think Marvel Heroes will make another appearance at Game Night, and now that we’re more familiar with the rules we should be able to concentrate more on the heroics and less on the crunchy rules.

Game Night: 20 March 2007 – Arkham what?

The International House of Johnson was full of gamers last night! Miscellaneous G™, Chris Miller, Gus and Jeff (another new addition to the crew) assembled for Game Night. We didn’t get started as early as planned, so we ditched Arkham Horror in favor of something a little lighter: Chez Geek 3: Block Party from Steve Jackson Games.

Chez Geek 3: Block PartyChez Geek is an absolute riot. The players are all roommates in a single apartment, seeking to goof off as much as possible in order to win the game. The prime commodity in Chez Geek is Slack, which can be accumulated through such activities as surfing the Net, sleeping, watching television and the even-popular nookie. There’s also Slack to be had through conspicuous consumption — buying books, booze, food, weed and other stuff — and just hanging out with friends.

Each player has a Job that defines his or her Free Time, Income and Slack Goal. Some Jobs, such as the Slacker, have loads of Free Time but very little Income while Jobs like Corporate Drone offer a high Income but not much Free Time. Cards granting Slack or inhibiting a roommates’ ability to acquire Slack are played from the hand, which is replenished at the beginning of each turn.

We played Chez Geek twice; once with four players and the second time with six. The first game was over fairly quickly, but the second went quite a bit longer.

Game One

  • Security Guard (me) – This guy doesn’t have to spend Free Time when he plays Sleep cards. That’s a nice perk; unfortunately I didn’t draw a single Sleep card the entire game.
  • Slacker (Jeff) – Truly shiftless, the Slacker sacrifices Income for Free Time. He can play a lot of Activity cards each turn, but his low Income makes for some pretty pathetic shopping trips. He’s kind of like the brother-in-law who crashes on your couch for six weeks after Spring semester, playing Xbox instead of getting a damn job.
  • Tech Support (Chris) – This poor sap is the polar opposite of the Slacker; the tech support rep has an above-average Income but almost no Free Time. On the bright side, he can play Computer Games or Surf the Net without using Free Time.
  • Web Designer (Miscellaneous G™) – Not a bad gig, if you can get it. The Web Designer gets a Slack bonus whenever one of his roommates plays a Surf the Net card.

The game had a promising start for me. I made a call to my buddy, Mr. Enthusiastic, and he was more than happy to come over. Then I went shopping for some booze, in the form of a White Russian (I do love the Kahlua).

Alas, Mr. Enthusiastic is a fickle fellow; he bounced from one room to another throughout the game, taking his 2 Slack with him. Any time a roommate managed to acquire 3 or more Slack in a turn, they had a good chance of wooing Mr. Enthusiastic away from another player. Before the first turn was over, Mr. Enthusiastic was long gone from my room. To add insult to injury, he was replaced by Can’t Handle It Guy, a pantywaist who rendered my delicious liquor completely useless.

Thanks to a couple of lousy die rolls, I didn’t get rid of the booze-inhibiting Can’t Handle It Guy until late in the game, and I never really recovered from the initial one-two punch I got in the first turn.

Meanwhile, Jeff the Slacker was feeling the pain of having almost no Income. He discarded a couple of high-price items, including the Wide-Screen TV, but managed to Surf the Net (giving Miscellaneous G™’s Web Designer bonus Slack) and score some Cast Party Nookie.

Chris managed to hold his own, playing a couple of Surf the Net cards, using his Free Time to shop for Used CDs and then coaxed Mr. Enthusiastic out of my room.

Unfortunately, all the net surfing proved to be our undoing; every click of the mouse added Slack to Miscellaneous G™’s total. A couple of turns, some Power Outage Nookie and a bottle of Old Ragnarok later, the Web Designer was only one point away from victory… and then Mr. Enthusiastic showed up with two more Slack points. Game Over.

Game Two

  • Corporate Drone (Jeff) – This all too familiar lackey makes a lot of dough, but has very little Free Time. He’s also got the highest Slack Goal of any Job in the game.
  • Waitstaff (Chris) – Ah, food services. You work your butt off trying to make a buck, but in the end your fortune falls to the whim of the diner. Income for this Job is variable, like your tips. On the bright side, the Waitstaffer gets one bonus Slack for every Sleep card he plays.
  • Envelope Stuffer (Laura) – It’s not the most exciting Job in the world (nor the best paying by far), but it has its benefits: the Envelope Stuffer doesn’t use free time to play TV cards.
  • Bike Messenger (Miscellaneous G™) – The nice thing about being a Bike Messenger is that Free Time and Income are perfectly balanced. The not so nice thing is that they’re both pretty low. The Bike Messenger also gets a bonus for playing Weed cards.
  • Graphic Artist (me) – The money is decent, but Free Time is almost nonexistent. Why does the Graphic Artist get a bonus for playing Weed and Cigarette cards? Who knows, man? Who knows?
  • Pizza Delivery Driver (Gus) – Like the Waitstaffer, the Pizza Delivery Driver’s Income is variable. He also gets a discount when purchasing Food. Yum!

This game had more of a Screw Your Neighbor feel than the first round. We had two additional players and everyone was more than happy to stick it to their fellow apartment-dwellers.

Chris managed to make himself a target early in the game by amassing a lot of Slack very quickly. Victory was well within his reach, so we all started ganging up on him. Laura hit him with cards that blocked his attempts to Sleep and anyone with a TV card in their hand was quick to cancel most of his other activities.TV is unique among the Activity cards in that it can be used to cancel an opponent’s activities. “I think you’ll watch History Science Theatre Y2K instead of going shopping…” or “Going to get some Nookie? I don’t think so. Looks like you’ll be watching a marathon of The Why-Files.” They’re good for thwarting attempts to play high-Slack cards, but they still give the thwartee one Slack point.

Laura and Gus were also formidable opponents, and both had victory within arm’s length multiple times. Gus was taking full advantage of the Pizza Delivery Driver’s discount on Food cards; he was able to play several of them for free, but his feeding frenzy was cut short when Hungry Girl invaded his room and raided the fridge. Laura, in the meantime, was proving to be quite the lush, downing both a White Russian and a bottle of Old Ragnarok. She combined her love of libations with an affinity for NT Server Doccos, certainly an odd combination. Even so, she didn’t quite manage to drink her way to a win.

I suppose I should blame myself for the outcome of the game. In my final turn (how could I have known), I played Chinese Fire Drill, forcing all players to pass their hands to the player on their left. This left Gus with a couple of my cards that he quickly put to use, but we were all still keeping an eye on Chris, who looked to be on the cusp of snatching the golden ring.

We should have been watching Jeff, whose turn fell between Gus and Chris. Sure, he had an impossibly high Slack Goal and almost no Free Time at all… until he got Gus’ hand. Jeff played Get a Life, giving him three Free Time but preventing him from playing Sleep or TV cards. He also played Jonesing and stole some of Gus’ yet-unscarfed Food. The rest of us had been so intent on stopping Chris that we had little left in reserve to stop Jeff. He stole, shopped, and sexed his way to a seven-point, game-winning Slackathon and all we could do was watch.

Game Night: 27 February 2007

Marvel Ultimate AllianceThe evening began with Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which may be the last great game for the Xbox Classic. Miscellaneous G™ and I continued our assault on Atlantis with our Femme Fatale squad (Invisible Woman, Marvel Girl, Spider Woman and Storm). S.H.I.E.L.D. sent the heroes to investigate a coup in the undersea kingdom that appeared to have ties to Doctor Doom’s new villainous organization. The heroes found that Attuma, a warlord who believes he is fated to rule Atlantis, had stolen the throne from Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Attuma was using sonic emitters — devices apparently supplied by Doctor Doom — to play havoc with the Atlanteans’ emotions and turn them against Namor and all surface dwellers.

At about 9:30, our special guest gamer, Gus, arrived. We turned off the Xbox, examined the vast array of board and card games at our disposal (most contained within Miscellaneous G™’s awesome Geek Box) and Monsters Menace America, which none of us had ever played (in fact, it had not yet been removed from its cellophane womb).

Monsters Menace America
image-555
Monsters Menace America is a board game in which players control giant monsters rampaging through North America. Each player also controls the deployment of one branch of the military. The object of the game is to gain health and Infamy by stomping cities, military bases and other locations (typically tourist attractions and monuments such as Carhenge, Graceland and Mount Rushmore) in preparation for the Monster Challenge, a monster-on-monster brawl that determines which monster reigns supreme.

We started out slowly, fumbling through the rules a bit and not certain what our strategies should be, especially around the deployment and movement of military units. I played Toxicor, a towering radioactive purple blob, and controlled the Air Force’s fighter jets and cruise missiles. Toxicor first appeared near Lake Ontario and stomped all over Cleveland and Detroit, completely ignoring the smorgasbord of cities along the eastern seaboard.

In Florida, the monocular menace known as Zorb (played by Gus, who also controlled the Army) trashed Tampa and mauled Miami, then started making its way up the east coast toward Boston and New York. Each stomped city grants the stomping monster additional health points, and larger cities provide big bonuses. Zorb was heading for a veritable feast and there was nothing to slow its progress, save a handful of National Guard units.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, Gigantis (an oversized praying mantis played by Laura) destroyed Los Angeles, Phoenix and several military bases, despite the brave Air Force pilots’ valiant efforts to stop the insectile marauder.

Miscellaneous G™ quickly learned that Megaclaw’s lair near Montana wasn’t an ideal starting point, due to a lack of major metropolitan areas in the region. His plan to amass Infamy tokens (which could be traded for extra attacks during combat) was working well as he demolished Carhenge and other nearby attractions, but Megaclaw’s health was not rising as quickly as those monsters who were decimating the coastal regions. Unfortunately, Miscellaneous G™ had to leave before the game was over, so the hideous Megaclaw was retired, as were the Navy’s fighters and nuclear submarines.

Realizing too late that Zorb was on his way to becoming unstoppable, Laura and I sent our combined military forces to the east coast. Again and again Zorb was attacked by Air Force cruise missiles and Marine Corps rocket launchers and fighter jets, but city after city fell to the creature’s deadly gaze and it grew ever more powerful. Even the mighty Mecha-Monster, a special unit I drew late in the game, proved to be little more than a minor annoyance to Zorb the Inexorable.

After twenty locations had been stomped, the Monster Challenge began. Zorb challenged Toxicor, who was sorely outclassed. The poor toxic blob had a mere 8 health points (not to mention zero Infamy tokens) compared to Zorb’s 40, and was soon reduced to a purple stain that stretched from Syracuse to Rochester. Gigantis put up a much better fight, cashing in six Infamy tokens and beating Zorb to within an inch (or perhaps a dozen Health points) of his life. The awesome might of the terrible eye proved too much for the massive mantis, however, and Gigantis was ultimately destroyed.

I have to admit that I completely dropped the ball in terms of strategy with Monsters Menace America. I don’t know what the hell Toxicor was doing, but it sure wasn’t collecting Infamy tokens and increasing his health in preparation for the Monster Challenge. Granted, I had a few unlucky rolls after destroying Detroit and Cleveland that resulted in Toxicor getting almost no benefit from their destruction, but it was foolish not to sweep over to New England and start wreaking havoc.

Even though my strategy was lacking (okay, nonexistent), I still enjoyed Monsters Menace America a great deal and would definitely like to play it again. It’s a welcome addition to Game Night, which is itself mutating into something new; once 4+ hours of video gaming every other Tuesday after work, its scope has expanded to include board and card games and a growing list of attendees. An epic game of Arkham Horror looms on the horizon, but Doctor Doom and his Masters of Evil cannot be allowed to succeed in whatever fiendish plot the masked monarch of Latveria is hatching.

Gamestuff: Witch Trial

There was no Game Night scheduled for yesterday, but Miscellaneous G™ has an open invitation to crash at the International House of Johnson in the event of inclement weather. Northeast Ohio has gotten a fair amount of snow in the past twenty-four hoursBy “fair amount” I mean that I’ve shoveled and/or snowblown (is that a word?) my driveway three times since 7:00 last night. There was easily ten inches of snow in the unplowed cul-de-sac when I maneuvered the MVoD out of the driveway this morning, and the drift on the west side of Laura’s car was easily two and a half feet deep. and local meteorologists, law-enforcement officials and omphaloskeptics have been advising that we drive as little as possible, so we determined an impromptu Game Night was in order.

We played Witch Trial from Cheapass Games, a game in which each player is an attorney prosecuting or defending suspects charged with crimes ranging from Showing Ankle in Public to Frowning to The Ol’ Hokus-Pokus. The game was a lot of fun and Miscellaneous G™ proved to be quite the bombastic (if not entirely competent or especially ethical) litigator, collecting $635 in legal fees thanks to his showboating in front of the jury. Despite bribing the judge on multiple occasions, I was only able to collect $550. Laura wasn’t quite able to channel the spirit of Jack McCoy and ended the game with a meager $350; I believe that a Law & Order marathon will help prepare her for a rematch.

Continue reading Gamestuff: Witch Trial