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Feb 25 13

Weekend Review, February 22-24

by Ethan

Eberron Next

The theme for the weekend was tabletop gaming and it kicked off Friday night with a return to Adam‘s table and DND Next. As Adam lamented in his plans fo 2013, we only found our way to the table twice last year. Understandable, since three of the seven players had children in 2012. Friday was a return. We lost one player but gained another and started a new campaign in one of my favorite settings, Eberron using the DND Next Playtest rules. I’d been sick all week and had a little trouble concentrating at times, but the fun is getting together, rolling 20′s, and laughing (and laughing). Check, check, check (and check).


The other tabletop experience this weekend was from the other side of the table. I started a Harry Potter campaign for my daughters (ages 8 and 6). I have been trying different PRGs and settings with them over the past year, but think I have found a winner with this setting and ruleset. The setting is… well it’s Harry Potter. They love it, we all do. And the ruleset is perfect. Very light on mechanics, plenty of options to help the players imagine their characters, and everyone gets a chance to be a hero. The girls got their Hogwarts acceptance letters, bought supplies, solved a mystery (“Who stole the Sorting Hat?”) and even won their first game of Quiddich, 130-10 over the hated Slytherin. Great fun.

Far Cry 3

I was looking for a game a few weeks ago and Adam suggested that Far Cry 3 would scratch my “explore and kill like in Skyrim” itch, but I didn’t listen and bought Guild Wars 2 instead. I like that game, but when Amazon dropped the price on FarCry3 on PC to $30 last week, I made the impulse purchase… and then lost most of my weekend to it. He was exactly right. Far Cry 3 is just what I wanted. It’s not Skyrim, but it has the essential parts… a huge open world to explore as you please and lots and lots of monsters that need killing. And they really do need it.


Feb 22 13

3A + Marvel

by Ethan

I’m with Mike. I’ve never bought any 3A stuff, but I’d make an exception for a re-imagined Colossus.

[Safe as Milk]

Feb 21 13

The Strange, Secret Evolution of Babylon 5

by Ethan

io9 has a nice retrospective of Babylon 5 today, to celebrate its 20th anniversary tomorrow. For years, “Babylon 5″ has been a post-hyponotic trigger phrase for me to go on a 20 minute rant about good television and Chekhov’s gun. I still love it.

The first paragraph touches on another thing that made the show ahead of the curve: JMS’ engagement with the fans. Take a look at any episode over at the Lurker’s Guide and you’ll see the showrunner (who wrote the entire five-year show, save a couple episodes) engaging the fans daily on Usenet. And it’s all archived for the world to see. I learned more about television from those messages than from any other source. Here’s a good example.

Feb 19 13

Possibly the best part of Lego Kids Fest

by Ethan

There were a few contenders, but this is in the conversation. This is not my video, obviously, but the exhibit was the same.

Feb 18 13

Destiny announced, officially

by Ethan


Bungie formally revealed its next shooter, Destiny. There’s tons of coverage. I found these three to be illuminating:

  • Penny Arcade Report is pretty excited.
  • Ars is unwilling to make any judgements based on hype.
  • … and Polygon has a nice overview of the ambition of the project.

Me, I’m pretty excited. I have a lot of appreciation for Bungie’s technical chops, but never really bought into the Halo mythos or the Master Chief. A subscription-free, console FPS developed by Bungie in a sci/fantasy mashup world with no load screens and seamless grouping… That all sounds good to me.

Feb 18 13

Weekend Review: February 16-17

by Ethan

Borrowing a page from Adam, here’s a Weekend Review for February 16-17.

Lego Kids Fest
The highlight and anchor of the weekend was a family trip to Lego Kids Fest. Four and a half hours of Lego fun. That was just enough time to see everything and spend some focused time on our favorite parts. My six-year-old loved the Lego Friends build area and spent literally hours there building. We also contributed skyscrapers to a massive SimCity-style map of the US and delighted in finding Easter Eggs in the pre-built dioramas for Harry Potter, Star Wars, and more. This was a blast. This was LKF’s first trip to Richmond, and I really hope not the last.

Heavy Seas Siren Noire
Our good friend Chris came down from Baltimore and brought the better part of a case of one of our favorite beers of 2012, Heavy Seas’ Siren Noire. We shared a drank a few bottles this weekend and even broke out our penultimate bottle of Gingerbread Stout for comparison. We agreed that SN might be better. And that’s saying something.

Star Wars Edge of the Empire tabletop RPG
I have tried on several occasions to engage my kids (ages 8 and 6) in tabletop roleplaying. I know the potential is there for a great time of imagination and combined storytelling. And these attempts have often coincided with Chris visits, because he loves RPGs and is also the best Uncle a kid could ask for. This time I tried a new system, Fantasy Flight’s new Star Wars system. It went pretty well, but we were all a bit tired from Lego Fest. The Star Wars setting is somewhat familiar to the kids, but the dice-rolling mechanic is a bit abstract. Penny Arcade’s Gabe does a good job explaining how the rules create a “plot twist engine” but I’d like to try this with adults next time.

The Black Company by Glen Cook

After quitting Sanderson’sWell of Ascension in disappointment, I picked up Glen Cook’s Black Company. So far, so very good. The genre is “military fantasy” and the premise is (to use a LotR reference), “You’re a mercenary. Not a bad guy, just looking to make some coin. What if you find yourself working for Sauron?” Reads more like Band of Brothers than Tolkien, and that’s a good thing.

Allison, Chris and I played five games of this over two nights and lost all of them. The first night was just one game and wasn’t too much fun, but it wasn’t the game’s fault. (Parenting aside: no one ever told me about the Terrible Sixes). Then Sunday night we played four games and lost every one. Still had fun in this save-the-world-or-not cooperative board game. Losing together is better than losing to someone at the table. But after losing three of the games at Normal Difficulty and one on Legendary, I’m ready to break out my Google-fu and Message Board Magellan skills and figure out how not to suck.

Feb 15 13

Han Solo To Reportedly Return For Star Wars VII

by Ethan


He has made one good movie since 1990 and none since 1993. Don’t believe me? That’s twenty years. That’s not a dry spell. That’s a dead career.

Feb 13 13

Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra Volume 1

by Ethan

GIJoeCobra1Read this because I checked out a more recent storyline based on Super Punch’s recommendation. That was good, but this was great.

I know, the title is almost a dealkiller by itself. Nostlagia kid stuff, right? But this was a great story. iFanBoy made it their Book of the Month back in 2009 and I can see why. The story is very Sleeper. It’s almost a Sleeper rip-off but I didn’t mind because I adored Sleeper.

The premise is a deep cover Joe trying to infiltrate Cobra. You really don’t need to know anything about the G.I. Joe mythology. I think there were four characters that are proper Joe characters, but not the protagonist and you really don’t need to know who anybody is.

I give this an EXCELLENT. Recommended for comics fans who like good Noir/Crime stories. And G.I. Joe Fans, too.

Jan 30 13

Patrick Rothfuss reviews Go, Dog. Go!

by Ethan

I know this is a classic and all, but I had a hard time making it through this book. It’s full of needless repetition, which makes it longer than it needs to be. What’s more, the plot is a mess, leaping from event to event almost randomly at times.

I respect what the author is attempting to do here, thematically. Eastman is asking bold questions about how things are related to one another. Are we a green dog or a yellow one? Is it day or night? These are big questions, and they need to be asked.

That said, you can have a book that contains big ideas AND an interesting story too. And, unfortunately, the story is severely lacking here.

The one saving grace of the book was the “Do you like my hat?” subplot, which was very tight in its execution and satisfying in its resolution.

Ultimately, when reading a book like this, the question you have to ask yourself is “Would I buy the sequel?” And I have to say, with some regret, that I wouldn’t. There were just too many structural problems with the story for that.

Jan 29 13

‘Lost’ tortoise found alive in storeroom after 30 years, immediately crowned hide-and-seek champion of the world

by Ethan

Great story, and even better headline. Nice work by Robert T. Gonzelez of io9.