The 10 Nerdiest Things of 2016

It's been a heck of a year.  People moan about 2016 for various reasons, but instead of looking back at any negatives of the year, here are the things that I enjoyed out of 2016.  Instead of posting several different lists for movies, tv shows, board games, etc, I decided to just combine them all together! Let me clarify - some of these items have been around for awhile, but 2016 was the year I was introduced to them.  And for me, whenever the year would get me down in one way or another, it was these 10 things (among others) that would lift my spirits.

10. Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Although Rogue One was a close contender for this list, I'll kick off this list with the Star Wars Roleplaying Game from Fantasy Flight Games.  At this point, I have 4 different versions of a Star Wars RPG on my shelf, but the FFG version is by far my favorite.  I had run Edge of the Empire in a previous year, so putting it on this list might be cheating, but this year was the year that I actually got to fully explore the game.  Previously, I didn't understand completely how the system worked and was figuring out pieces of the game on the fly.  This year, not only did I get the chance to figure out how the game was played (more on that in a bit), but I sat down with my friends and recorded an excellent campaign for The Dirtbags of Holding podcast.  If you haven't heard that series please go listen now!  Of the campaigns we have done so far, it has to be my favorite.  The pilot I came up with, Scratch, has to be the most fun character I have ever role played, and I know for a fact I'll be dusting off that character sheet at some point in the future.  If you've ever wanted to explore the Star Wars universe, even if you've never played a roleplaying game before, this game is worth taking for a spin.

9. The Campaign Podcast

Image from oneshotpodcast.com

Image from oneshotpodcast.com

How did I learn to play the Star Wars RPG?  Well, 2 of my fellow Dirtbags, Cory and Jimmy, introduced me this year to a podcast called Campaign.  The Campaign Podcast on the One Shot Network is an actual play podcast that features Kat Kuhl as game master along with a cast of awesome characters playing through FFG's Star Wars game.  It has action, comedy, drama, and a crap ton of Star Wars.  Once I gave this podcast a try, I quickly burned through the 70+ episode backlog in order to get caught up with the story.  If you want to get a feel for how good (or bad) this system could be used, then you need to give this podcast a shout.

8. Numenera

Image from montecookgames.com

Image from montecookgames.com

This year was also the year I figured out what the heck this Numenera game that I kept hearing about was.  Starting out as a Kickstarter in 2013 that raised over half a million dollars, Numenera is a science fantasy Role Playing Game that takes place in a billion years into the future.  Eight great civilizations have come and gone on Earth, and now you play as characters in the Ninth World, exploring the world and finding remnants of the previous civilizations.  The line between technology and magic is very thin in this game, as players get "Cyphers" - one use bits of technology (called Numenera in the setting) that can do all sorts of mysterious things.  This game, and the Cypher System that powers it, intrigues me so much.  It revolves around letting the GM easily make adventures and stories, while not being completely light on mechanics like other narrative focused games.  In fact, Monte Cook Games, the company that produces Numenera, touts that you can use the Cypher System to create adventures right on spot.  Here's an example of one of these instant adventures, hosted by the company at Gen Con this year (see if you can hear me in the audience shouting suggestions!).

7. Scythe

If you had told me at Gen Con that the board game Scythe by Stonemaier Games would end up on my Top list of 2016, I never would have believed you.  Scythe is a resource management/area control game set in an alternate World War I era….with giant mechs.  Yeah, sounds like it would be right up my alley right?  However, when I gave this game a try at Gen Con, it seemed very complicated and too complex for me.  Fast forward a few months, and I decided to pick up a retail copy of the game at a nearby store.  Since I had played with the Kickstarter version, I *had* to of course pick up the metal coins and realistic tokens.  Then, the game seemed complex to set up so I *really* needed to get The Broken Token insert.  Makes total sense…..  By this point I had gotten a few plays in of the game and was completely sold in.  The components, the artwork, the strategy, all of it just hits me right in the sweet spot.  I even took it home for Christmas and taught my dad how to play - and he normally is not much for very complicated games.  Yet we played the game multiple times together over the break - and had a blast doing it!  This is a game I can't wait to take out again, and I feel that purchasing the expansion for the game is in my near future.

6. Legends of Tomorrow

Image from cwtv.com

Image from cwtv.com

I love the DC Comics TV shows that are on the CW network.  So when I heard about "Legends of Tomorrow", a show where some of the characters spun off from previous shows "The Flash" and "Arrow" time travel to stop a massive plot, I was sold.  Featuring characters such as Captain Cold, Firestorm, The Atom, and Rip Hunter, the first season of the show had its problems but was still enjoyable to watch.  If that was all that I had seen, however, it would not have been enough to end up on this list.  Luckily, the first half of the second season has come out, and has made this show a part of my "must watch" TV each week.  Now, I can not stand to be behind in this show, for they have taken out what didn't work in the first season and cranked up what did work to 11.  Not to mention, the huge crossover episode "Heroes vs. Aliens" between Supergirl/The Flash/Arrow/Legions of Tomorrow put together is easily the best live action work that DC has put out in years (sorry Batman v. Superman, but you had some serious problems).  With drawing in at least 3.3 million viewers each night, I'm probably not the only one who felt this way.

5. Ice Cool

This game completely caught me by surprise.  Ice Cool, by Brain Games, is a dexterity game where you flick penguins around a school trying to score fish before the hall monitor hits you.  The penguins are weighted like "weeble-wobbles" so that they are always wobbling around and can result in some special trick shot maneuvers.  Here is a play through of the game, if you want to see the game at work.  It is such a simple game that was sold to me as a kid's game but I've had more fun playing this with adults than I have kids.  You can get some really ridiculous shots in some times, which makes the game more than a straight skill game.  One randomly good move can get you caught up, and is hilarious to watch someone try and repeat the same shot.  This game is a ton of fun that you can play with all of your friends and family, so I encourage you to give it a try.

4. Overwatch

Image from playoverwatch.com

Image from playoverwatch.com

Anyone who truly knows me will not be surprised to find a Blizzard video game on this list.  Overwatch is the company's latest game, a team based first person shooter that plays a lot like Team Fortress 2.  Players take on different roles and try and score objectives instead of a traditional "deathmatch" style game.  These traits that make the game different from classical shooters like Call of Duty are exactly why the game appeals to me so much.  In this game, I don't have to be the best crack shot, as I can help my team by shielding them from damage or healing them instead.  There's a whole layer of strategy that you don't get in other games.  Not only that, but Blizzard puts their heart and soul into everything that they do, which means that you get a game with all different kind of characters.  Each character has a detailed backstory that builds to the overall lore of the game.  Playing this game with my friends has become a big thrill for me over the past few months.

3. Pokémon Trading Card Game

For a reason you will find out soon enough, I have gotten really back into Pokémon this year.  Like, in a big way.  I've been playing through different versions of the video games, buying up related shirts, artwork, etc.  However, the biggest way I've been "catching them all" is through the Pokémon TCG.  All of us here at the Renshaw house have jumped on the bandwagon of the game, at the right time it seems as Pokémon celebrated it's 20th anniversary last year.  All through the year, The Pokémon Company did several events to get people back to that 90s nostalgia, including releasing a set featuring artwork from the original version of the game.  Suffice to say, every time we go to the store now, we are picking up booster packs of the card game and enjoy opening them to see what we've "caught".  We don't get to play the game too much but we still have plenty of fun collecting the cards together.

2. Pokémon Go

I've been an off and on Pokémon fan since the 90s, but what sparked this most recent bout of Poke-mania?  Oh, you know, just a tiny mobile game called Pokémon Go.  Taking the world of Pokémon and fusing it with our own, Pokémon Go was an unstoppable force during the summer.  Oh, and Pokémon Go is still a thing, despite what some would lead you to think.  From a peak of 40 million players, less than 15 million people still play the game as of October 2016.  That's still more people than the population of Illinois!  My wife, daughter, and I all play Pokémon Go, and we love going out to places and walking (or driving in this colder weather) around catching various Pokémon.  Ashley and I will have dates where we go out and just sit around at a popular place for Pokémon and catch as many as we can together.  People scoff when they hear that I've actually spent money in the game for items and such, but spending $5-10 for an hour or more of entertainment together is a pretty cheap date, in my opinion.

1. Deadpool

Image from foxmovies.com

Image from foxmovies.com

If you are reading this blog, chances are you've already seen Deadpool, the movie about the violent and vulgar Marvel comic mercenary .  You might know how great it is.  Why do I think it is better than everything else on this list?  Typically, when I enjoy a movie a movie in the theater, I can't wait to purchase it on DVD/Bluray/iTunes.  If I really like a movie, I'll even rewatch it a couple of times after it releases.  I've probably watched Deadpool over 10 times by the this point, and it hasn't even been a whole year since its theatrical release.  This movie is perfect for me in so many ways - the superhero genre, the humor, and the way it doesn't take itself serious at all.  Every time that I watch the movie, I laugh at the same parts.  It never gets old!  Granted, this is not a family movie, nor even a movie I would ever think about showing Chloe.  Still, the enjoyment I have gotten from this movie definitely solidifies its place here on the top of my list.

What About 2017?

Now that we've talked about last year, let's look ahead and briefly see a couple of things that I'm looking forward to this year.

(Movies) Superheroes.  More superheroes.  And did I mention superheroes?  There's a lot of comic book based movies coming out this year that I am really looking forward to.  I don't even have to wait very long, as The LEGO Batman Movie (probably the one I want to see the most) comes out February 10th.  On the opposite side of the year, we get to see if Batman v. Superman will redeem itself as Justice League opens in November.  Inside of those layers of DC bread, we have lots of Marvel goodness that will be drawing people into the theaters.  Between Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Logan, Some are predicting that Marvel will rake in over 3 BILLION dollars.  That's a lot of dough - I hope the movies turn out to be good!

(TV Shows) DC is already killing it with all of their CW shows, but in addition to more episodes of my favorites, the show I'm really intrigued about is DC's latest attempt.  Powerless is a new comedy debuting on NBC that features goofy scientists making all the high tech gadgets that the world needs when superheroes fighting supervillains is an everyday occurrence.  I thought the idea of a comedy in the DC universe was a weird idea, until I saw the promo.  The show reminds me a lot of another show I enjoyed, Better Off Ted.  If it can be even half as good as that show, and with the talent that is behind the show, it may turn out to be a real winner.

(Games) This year, I'll have many Role Playing Games that I'll be trying out for The Dirtbags of Holding podcast, but I think the one new game that I'm the most curious about is Starfinder by Paizo.  Taking the Pathfinder ruleset and throwing it into science fiction, Starfinder releases during Gen Con this year.  If you want more information about this game, I did an interview with James Sutter, the Creative Director behind the game.  Paizo has a radical fanbase and I'm sure the game will sell very well, but the real reason I'm curious about the game is that Paizo has a great staff of creators who weave together awesome adventures and gameplay.  Thus, Starfinder is bound to be a very interesting RPG experience.

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So there you have it.  What tickled my fancy in 2016 and what I'm anxiously awaiting in 2017.  What about you?  What did you enjoy last year, and what are you looking forward to this year?

More XCraft 360! (OCDtv #17)

**Sorry for the weird audio in the beginning** Not sure why that happened, but it works itself out relatively quickly.

One more Xbox Minecraft playthrough for you guys - this time, watch me delve deep into the depths of the world, uncover caverns, battle monsters -- even find treasure!

Thinking about making a regular series of Minecraft videos - but Xbox or PC? Got a preference? Let me know below in the comments!

4 Things I've Learned So Far In Mists of Pandaria

Last Tuesday, the latest expansion to World of Warcraft, Mists of Pandaria, was released!  Those of you that keep track of Relative Dimensions, you know that Philip and I have planned to spend the past weekend diving head first into the new content.  Yet, during the short time that it's been out, I've learned a thing or two that I'd like to share with y'all.  You'll just have to click on to find out what they are.

1) Blizzard has stepped up their storytelling.

More than any other expansion, I have really been drawn into the storyline behind Pandaria.  I have seen many people downplay this expansion as just "Kung Fu Pandas", but Blizzard has gone above and beyond to deliver an awesome story.  The first quests that send you towards Pandaria consist of cinematics that grabbed me immediately and wouldn't let me know.  The quests are designed to lead you around the various landscapes, revealing more and more of the storyline(s) that Blizzard has scattered throughout the different zones.  I can't wait to see what happens next in the storyline, and I'm only level 87!

2) The Battle Pets system is familiar, yet still awesome.

There's no doubt about it, this new Battle Pets system is Pokemon.  From the over the shoulder viewpoint that happens when you enter into a battle to the cheesy battle music in the background.  Yet, like many things that Blizzard does, they have taken this system and tweaked it into a great product.  I love the aspects that they have added, such as constant reminders of what is weak/strong against what in both the pet descriptions and on the individual actions themselves.  I can quickly glance down and know what attacks are going to be strong/weak/normal against my opponent.  With the random PvP matching system, its really easy to jump into a match quickly when you have a moment to spare.

Which leads me to:

3) I suck at Battle Pets

Either that, or the logic that Blizzard uses to pair you up with people for PvP pet battles does not match people as close to your level as it claims.  I think the only random Pet Battle I've won is the very first one I participated in, when all my pets were level 3 or below.  Ever since then, I've lost every single match, typically because the people I fight have 3 pets that are all the same level.  Conveniently, that always happens to be the level of my highest pet.  I'm hoping that I need more experience with the system and that eventually I'll get some sort of strategy together.

Finally:

4) So much to do, so little time

WoW is far from dead.  This expansion brought a wealth of content to the game (something that many people claim Cataclysm failed to do).  Between the Battle Pets, farming, questing, new dungeons, and new aspects like Scenarios and the monk class, the problem you face when you log in is which path to venture down.  Where as in Cataclysm, Philip and I were quickly leveling through the content and got to 85 in no time, we have spent most of this weekend playing Pandaria and have only just hit 87.  I believe that I will be enjoying this expansion for a good long while.

Are you playing the game?  Why or why not?  If so, what have been your thoughts?

 

Game Review: Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013 (iPad)

Are you a big fan of Magic: The Gathering? Do you love creating decks of powerful cards, yet do not have a place to play with other people? Well, now you are in luck, as Wizards of the Coast has released the 2013 version of their popular Duel of the Planeswalkers video game. Not only that, but for the first time, there is an iPad version! Read on to hear my thoughts of the game.

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I've been waiting for this app for a long time. I loved Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, and I couldn't wait to see how it translated to the iPad. However, it took me forever to find this app! I searched for Magic the Gathering, Duels of the Planeswalkers, and a couple of other things and I couldn't find it! It wasn't until I looked on another review online and found a link to the app store that I realized it was found under Magic 2013. So my biggest complaint is that they should have put more keywords in so that the app would be easier to find.

The app itself is really great: you can download the app for free and get a few fights and a couple of decks to choose from. For 9.99, you can unlock the remaining decks and play multiplayer with your friends. Overall, the app plays very much like the previous iterations of the game, with a few minor tweaks. I haven't had a chance to play multiplayer yet, but I'm loving the Campaign within the game. I never got very far in Duels 2012 because when I sat down at my computer to play, I would rather spend time in a game like World of Warcraft or something else. However, with it on the iPad, now I can just sit on the couch (or anywhere else I have my iPad) and play some Magic. I can't wait to play further and unlock some of the other ways to play the game.

IN CONCLUSION: Download this game! If you have ever been interested in Magic The Gathering, then this game has a great tutorial to teach you how to play. Plus, you can try it out for free!

Have you tried out the game? What do you think? Leave a comment or send me an email at chris@ocdcast.com.

 

Video Game Review: Hero Academy (iOS)

Alright, now everyone do not panic at once, but here you go: 2 days, 2 video game reviews.  This game is something that I've been playing off and on for the past few weeks, and that is Hero Academy, which is a FREE mobile app for iOS (although I've heard rumors of a Android version coming).  The game is sort of a strategy board game, where you and an opponent (either a random player or a friend) take turns moving various people around this "battlefield"; attacking the other player's minions.  The goal of the game is to either eliminate the enemy's forces, or take out the opposing player's "Crystals" which sit on the map.  You can have multiple games going on at once with all of your various friends. "The graphics, how are the graphics?"

Hero Academy has a fantasy theme, with priest and warriors (and even ninjas and wraiths), depending on what team you choose (I'll talk about this later).  The graphics go along with this really well, presenting a very cartoony world.  It melds nicely with the gameplay, and runs very smoothly on my iPhone 4.  The only "lag" or issues I've had is when a game loads, and this is only when I'm in a low 3G area, so that's not really the game's fault.

 So, how many moves do I get?

 The way the gameplay works is that there are 2 teams: the Council and the Dark Elves.  The Council characters come with the app, whil the Dark Elves are a cheap in-app purchase ($0.99 or $1.99, I can't remember).  After choosing your team, you start off placing you characters on the board and then moving them around.  It has a turn-based system, during which you get 5 moves or abilities you can divide amongst your men before you "Submit" your actions and allow the next player to go.  I like this, as you can move pieces around and see how much damage you would do with a specific chain of events, and then "reset" if you are not happy with the turnout.  It's a new gimmick that I haven't seen a whole lot with other games.

CONCLUSION: Try out this game.  It's free, and unless you like elves, you really do not have to buy anything within the app.  I'm having a lot of fun with it, and you'll be able to tell relatively quick whether or not its your thing.

What games are you playing right now?  I'm always on the lookout for new iOS games to play, so post a comment below or send me an email at chris@ocdcast.com

Video Game Review: Minecraft

  I know, I know, I'm really behind the curve on this. In case you do not know much about me, I rarely get games when they are brand new unless its a game that I've been looking forward to for a long time. Typically, I pick up games long after other people have talked about them. Such is the case with Minecraft. I've been hearing a lot of great things about the game, but I never put my foot down on buying it until now (thanks to my lovely fiance Ashley for giving me some motivation to play).

For those that haven't played Minecraft yet, the basic premise is this: its a Lego video game without the Lego branding. It has very basic graphics, creating this cube-style world where you can build just about anything. During the day you can walk around gathering materials, building structures, fishing, or even tending to a farm. At night, you have to fend off your creations from Zombies and other creatures. You can play both Single Player or Multiplayer on servers with other people.

I decided to play multiplayer on fellow AIE member Deci's server. He talks about Minecraft all the time on his twitter feed (@DeciTM), and I thought that if I were to play, I'd need to play with him and some of the other people that have joined him. The game started off pretty slow to me, as I was staying close to the inital spawn point and was having a hard time finding resources. After a while I ventured out into the world and ever since I've been progressing a lot faster.

Okay, so I love this game. I didn't think that I would since there isn't really a "goal" and its very open. Yet once I started playing, that little kid that used to play Legos all the time took over and I've been having a blast. It's been great interacting with people and seeing what they have constructed and working to make something myself that I hope can be of equal quality. The gameplay is really simple, you punch trees and dirt to get materials which you can use to make tools. Then you can use those tools to get stronger materials to use in your creations.

CONCLUSION: Buy this game. It's only about $27, and you can get way more fun out of this game than any other games out there right now. Plus, its small and simple enough that you can install it on just about any computer out there.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below, or email me at chris@ocdcast.com

 

The Walking Dead and Fables to become video games

Telltale Games (the people behind Sam & Max and the recent Back to the Future video games) have made a deal to create video games for both The Walking Dead (based on the TV show not the comic) and Fables. The games will be episodic, and should start to come out in about a year or so. For more detailed information, hit up some of the following blogs:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=30919

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/02/18/telltale-games-the-walking-dead-fables-videogames/

I'm pretty excited to hear this news, as I'm a big fan of The Walking Dead and I know Cathi is a big fan of Fables. There is always the possibility that these comics may not translate into video games very well, as there are many examples of people screwing up comics-related video games. However, I've been enjoying episode 1 of their Back to the Future game, so I'm somewhat hopeful that they can do the comics justice.

In the Knerd - 12/6/10: "Waiting in a Blizzard for a Blizzard game"

I've decided that I need to blog more on this website, so I present to you a new column: "In the Knerd".  The name is kind of a play on words of "in the know" and "in the nerd", basically meaning its a place where I'll just talk about all the things going on inside my head.  I'm going to try and post frequently--I'm not going to promise to do a different post daily, but that's my goal.  In a way, it will be like my nerdy diary.

So then -- what a day to start on!  I'm so excited, as right now I'm waiting before one of my grad classes but as soon as its over I get to speed home where Ashley will be waiting for me.  After throwing some clothes in the washer (not important, but if I type it I'll remember better), the two of us are heading out to experience the awesomeness of Cataclysm launch night!

For those of you who may not have been around me or listen to the few "Nerd is the Word" podcasts we've done, "Cataclysm" is the new expansion to the hit video game World of Warcraft (WoW) produced by Blizzard Entertainment.  Ashley and I have been eagerly anticipating this release for over a year now--in fact its the primary reason we both got back into WoW.  Tonight, all kinds of geeks and nerds will be huddled in front of our local GameStop waiting for midnight to strike so that they can be the first to get the game.  Both of us have a collector's edition waiting for us there, which has all sorts of soundtracks and behind the scenes stuff in addition to the game.

Here in lies the problem: according to weather.com, its supposed to get around 32 degrees F tonight--and the waiting line for the midnight release will be outside in the cold.  Not really going to work for me, and I KNOW Ashley wont stand out in it.  So, since I haven't completely pre-paid for our games (something I've learned not to do over the years), we are going to first try and hit up the Walmart near us to see if they are going to carry the Collector's Edition version of the game.  If so, we'll probably be one of the first in line and thus we'll just wait (inside) until midnight comes.  If they don't have it, we'll end up going to GameStop and paying and then sitting out in the car until midnight comes.  Problem solved.

Anyways, that's all I've got today.  Wish me luck tonight!

*Image taken from www.vgboxart.com

Halo: Reach - My First Impressions

I was sitting around the apartment this evening, trying to de-stress from a hard day at work, when one of my roommates happen to be on the Xbox looking at Halo: Reach videos.  I sat down to watch as well, when I noticed they said the beta was May 3rd....wait a minute....today is May 3rd!!  And I have ODST, which means...download time! First of all, I'd recommend anyone who has access to the beta watch the "Welcome to the Beta!" video on Xbox Live.  Very hilarious, and quite informative on what to expect in the beta, so you can manage to hit the ground running and avoid some of that "new-game" disorientation.

I'll waste no time here - this game is amazing.  It has definitely got that "Halo feel" to it, without feeling like the exact same game all over again - a feeling I had with ODST as well, but in a different aspect.  I described it to another person as "Halo on steroids".  Imagine traditional Halo multiplayer, but with ODST graphics, and JETPACKS!  See, you have "armor abilities" that you can change every time you respawn (only 1 at a time).  One allows you to sprint, one is an active cloak, one is an invincibility that you can charge up, and the last one is the jet pack.  In my experience, most people choose the jetpack.

Simply put, I feel like this is what Halo 3 should have been like.  One of the biggest complaints of Halo 3 was that the multiplayer was almost the same as Halo 2, only with different weapons/maps.  This game is almost a completely new experience, different modes, weapons, tactics, abilities, etc.  And Bungie has taken many of the complaints from previous Halo games and refined them.  For instance, gone is the old matchmaking veto system.  Instead, the game presents you with three options, and the players vote on which game type to play.  Its a pretty neat idea thats been applied very well.

Although I think the game is great, it does have its faults.  At this point, I'm associating most of them with the fact the game is in beta.  For instance, the game can take awhile to connect to the Reach servers to download the latest playlists.  So if you stay in the same playlist you are good to go between games, but if you have to switch game types, it can be awhile.

All in all, the game is a ton of fun, and I can't wait to see how it improves over the next few weeks/months.  And I'll definitely be picking up this game later this year when it actually comes out.