Tag Archives: Game Night

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)

The Secret Lair: Expansion

Things are a bit turbulent over at The Secret Lair these days. Chris Miller, my co-overlord, has packed up his belongings and moved to California, where he will take command of The Secret Lair West, our new facility located somewhere near Los Angeles. During one of his pre-move trips to L.A., Chris managed to accidentally shakes things up a bit and our own Secretary of Artistic Propaganda, Natalie Metzger, immortalized the event as an episode of The Secret Lair Webcomic.

The Secret Lair Webcomic - Episode 008

Meanwhile, closer to home, I’ve had to deal with not only the ramifications of Chris’ departure, but the day-to-day administrative duties of running an illegal, covert facility near what passes for a major metropolitan area in northeast Ohio.

As a result of the hubbub, we anticipate that our podcast release schedule will be even more sporadic than normal, though we did recently release our final face-to-face episode for the foreseeable future, recorded during Game Night at the International House of Johnson and including a number of very special guests.

Once the dust has settled (and we’ve determined that it’s not radioactive), we’ll fire up Skype and get back to what we do best. And if anyone out there knows exactly what that is, please let us know.

EDIT: Like the sands through the hourglass, so have fallen links to The Secret Lair.

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
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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.

Random Stuff for Tuesday, 20 March

Test sites for WordPress themes display several standard elements so theme hunters can see how things like images and bulleted lists look on the page. As it happens, I’m in the process of tweaking the Blue Zinfandel theme and I’ve got a few random things that I wanted to talk about, giving me the perfect opportunity to put the theme through its paces and solicit additional feedback.

  1. I picked up a copy of Fool Moon today, the second book in Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files. I tore through the first book, Blood Moon Storm FrontEDIT: Blood Moon? Where the hell did that come from?, over about two days when I was on vacation in Michigan, so I’m going to start Fool Moon as soon as I finish Eragon, which I’m about two-thirds of the way through.Liar, liar, pants on fire. Technically, I started reading Fool Moon while I was waiting for my General Tso’s Chicken at the China Express.
  2. My father was featured in a documentary that has (I’m told) aired twice in Finland. Laura and I got a copy of the 50-minute DVD in the mail yesterday. I think I’ll talk about it a little more once I’ve had a chance to watch it again.
  3. Laura’s birthday was Sunday. If you’ve been paying attention to My Twitter, you’ll know that my gift to her was food poisoning. I also got her some foul-tasting (but pretty) tea, a birthday card that looked familiar because I gave her the exact same one sometime in the past couple of years, flowers that were supposed to be a surprise but were anything but, and a couple of movies on DVD.
  4. Who’s the Man?
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    Kyle was sick a couple of weeks ago, but he’s feeling much better now. Actually, the entire Johnson household was under the weather; Kyle was the only one who didn’t seem to realize that he was sick. He had a cough and a runny nose, but was acting for the most part like nothing was out of the ordinary. If Laura and I were too slow with the tissues, Kyle would wind up wiping snot all over his face. Bleah.
  5. I didn’t watch the entire premiere of The Riches on FX, but I did see the second episode last night. Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver are both very good, and the show has a dark side that didn’t come across in the ads that drew me to it in the first place. I like what I’ve seen so far, though.
  6. On the topic of new shows, I also enjoyed the premiere of Raines starring Jeff Goldblum. The show has a very cool concept (cop talks to the victim of the homicide he’s trying to solve) and I really like the way Goldblum plays the character; Michael Raines has all of the quirks I associate with Jeff Goldblum, but he’s definitely more ruthless and edgy than I expected him to be. I appreciate that.
  7. Rae promises that Robin Hood will get better with the next episode. The first three episodes weren’t bad, but they could certainly have been better.
  8. I don’t think I like the default styling for ordered lists. Expect tweaks.
  9. It’s Game Night. I’m hoping to play Arkham Horror, but I’ll be happy playing pretty much anything.

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
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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.