Jordan takes a look at the two expansions for Warhammer Diskwars: Legions of Darkness and Hammer and Hold.
Jordan takes a look at the two expansions for Warhammer Diskwars: Legions of Darkness and Hammer and Hold.
Shadowrun: Fire and Frost
Catalyst Game Labs 2014
This is the first print Shadowrun novel released in quite a while, but it took me right back to the books I enjoyed in the mid 90’s.
This is the story of Elijah, Kyrie, Pineapple, Cao and Yeung, runners hired to find a valuable map for their Mr. Johnson. A well-balanced team, featuring muscle, mage, adept rigger and decker, they feel confident they can take all opponents and get the job done.
As with every good run, things go off the rails right away, and this book covers their travels and tribulations from the streets of Chicago to the favelas of Amazonia and finally, deep below the ice of Antarctica.
There are all the standard elements of a good run: intrigue, comrades in arms, rigging, hacking the Matrix and betrayal. Each character is given the spotlight at a different time, allowing the individuals to shine, but most of the time we’re presented with a well-balanced team working together. For the most part, this is done well, but there are a few occasions where you can hear the dice rolling as the author takes the characters — painfully — through what seem like set points from an adventure module. This doesn’t happen that often and this book flows quite smoothly otherwise.
Most of the characters are more than just the archetypes you find in other licensed fiction and are not just the standard hacker, mage or gun for hire. O’Connell also does a good job of tying this story into the history of the Shadowrun world, referencing things that started in first edition and have carried on as plot hooks across all editions and fiction.
While this is definitely a book to showcase the Shadowrun world, it does not sacrifice content just to put out mechanics. It is an enjoyable read that happens to be set in the Shadowrun world and could stand alone as a non-IP specific Cyberpunk novel if the author had wanted to go that route.
As of May 2014, Catalyst has indicated the book has gone to print and will be available soon, so if you’ve enjoyed the Shadowrun fiction before, I’d add this to your list of products to check out.
Forever Evil 1 – 7
Writer – Geoff Johns
Pencils – David Finch
This was the first universe spanning crossover of the New 52 and it was handled, for the most part, quite well.
This was a fully contained story across seven issue and while there were crossovers and tie-in titles, if you did not read them, you still got a full and coherent story.
This spins out of the earlier Trinity War that crossed the various Justice League titles and the Justice League is missing. It opens with Lex Luthor intimidating Thomas Kord into selling Kord Industries but before the deed can be finished a power surge disables his helicopter and all the power to Metropolis. Surviving the crash, he sees that all the electronics in the area are flashing ‘This world is ours!’
Cut to a page with Grid, the first shot of the newly envisioned Crime Syndicate. He is the evil equivalent of Cyborg and is seen turning off the power grids to the major DC cities and opening the prisons. He’s speaking with another member of the CS on the way to Metropolis.
Cut again this time to Gotham and Nightwing is taking a newly captured Zsasz to Arkham Asylum when he sees Superwoman and Owlman break in, tearing the doors off in preparation to freeing the prisoners. They capture Nightwing with ease and take him for purposes unknown.
A few scenes around the DCU shows Flash’s Rogues in Central City breaking into Iron Heights Penitentiary only to be interrupted by Johnny Quick and Atomica continuing the Syndicate’s mission to free all the villains.
Deathstorm and Power Ring do the same at Belle Reve Prison, freeing the prisoners including Black Manta.
Lex sees what he thinks is Superman break into his building and eventually his lab’s safes to find green Kryptonite which he grinds to dust, heats with his heat vision and then snorts like a drug, finally revealing the ‘U’ of Ultraman and not Superman.
In the remains of Arkham, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Riddler and Scarecrow debate joining the Crime Syndicate.
Finally the villains of the DCU arrive at the remains of the Watchtower, crashed into the ocean. There’s a great 2 page spread, reminiscent of Crisis, all the villains around a pedestal waiting for the Crime Syndicate to speak. And they do, both to the villains there and broadcasting to the world, throwing down Aquaman’s trident, Wonder Woman’s lasso and the tattered remains of Superman’s cape. They lay down the law that they now control the planet and that the lesser villains will be working for them. Monocle speaks out against them and Ultraman vaporizes him and then order Superwoman to haul up Nightwing, beaten and bloody. They pull off his mask and reveal him to be Dick Grayson.
The Syndicate continues to lay out the new order and finally Ultraman flies off to force an eclipse, using the moon to block the sun as the rays of a yellow sun cause him pain.
The issue ends with Luthor watching this happen and thinking to himself ‘this looks like a job for Superman, so where the hell his he?’
This was an excellent first issue. It lays down the premise, gives some mystery and a seemingly insurmountable villain.
Issue two continues to be Luthor centric as he moves to the sublevels of the Lexcorp tower, searching for gear to help stop the Syndicate. In a throwback to the Christopher Reeve movies, he runs into a security guard named Otis.
We see a few panels of the Titans gearing up, getting ready to fight knowing it’s only a matter of time before the Syndicate reveals more identies. At the same time, we get more panels of various villains enacting the Syndicate’s plans and a splash page showing that, while the Syndicate may work together, as always, they don’t really like each other or get along. There’s a reveal that they brought a prisoner with them from Earth 3 and that Superwoman is pregnant with Owlman’s child, something they’re trying to keep hidden from Ultraman.
Luthor reaches his goal, an incubator labeled Subject B-0 which is a Superman clone not yet fully developed. Luthor says it’s only had five years growth and so will not be fully viable. Its growth is clearly incomplete, not responding to stimulus until Otis tries to kill Luthor. This galvanizes Bizarro into action, killing Otis to save Lex.
Meanwhile, the Titans and local military try to attack the Watchtower and they are taken down with ease by Johnny Quick and Atomica.
Finally, Lex gets to his destination, his battle armor. His inner monolog discussing the demise of the Justice League and the state of the world. Luthor gives him a Superman costume to wear but he puts it on backwards, now taking on the full look of the traditional Bizarro.
The issue ends with Batman, not actually dead, Catwoman and the remains of Cyborg breaking into Star Labs where Vic Stone’s father works, needing him to save his son’s life.
Issue three starts with Batman recounting events at the end of Trinity War. The various Justice Leagues having fought each other to a standstill, Superman unconscious and Grid separating itself from Cyborg as the Crime Syndicate appears. He and Catwoman get Vic Stone to safety and Deathstorm does something to Firestorm that causes him to absorb the remaining members of the Leagues into his Matrix, removing them from reality.
Lex, using Bizarro for the heavy lifting, is trying to get the Lexcorp netowrk back online and he observes a battle between Black Adam and Ultraman. Adam tries the ‘shout Shazam’ trick hoping the lightning will deal with Ultraman but it does not. Ultraman crushes Adam’s jaw, ensuring he can no longer speak.
The remainder of the issue is Lex gathering the members of his new, not quite, Legion of Doom: Black Adam, Black Manta and Captain Cold.
Issue four opens with Batman taking Catwoman, blindfolded, to the Batcave to the tools he needs to defeat the Syndicate. He admits that he’s gathered these items, Kryptonite, a Yellow Power ring, a lighting rod from the future and a Motherbox to defeat the current Justice League should it ever become necessary. The contents of the Aquaman box are not shown as the Syndicate Aquaman did not survive transition and the Wonder Woman box is shown to be empty. This scene ends with the reveal that Grid has been monitoring the Batcave.
There are pages showing dissent and animosity within the Syndicate, which is always their weakest link.
Finally, the issue is rounded out the Lex’s team breaking into Wayne Industries only to find that Batman and Catwoman are already there. They get ready for a scuffle but are interrupted by the arrival of Power Ring accompanied by Deathstroke and some other villains. The battle starts with various heroes and villains squaring off and Batman puts on the Yellow ring to face Power Ring. Untrained and with an uncharged ring, Batman’s constructs are not match for Power Ring who takes the ring from him and destroys it, saying a Yellow ring cannot hurt him. The final page is Sinestro arriving.
Issue five is mainly a fight issue between Bat and Lex’s Legion and Power Ring and the villains he brought with him. It’s fairly uneventful except for a scene where Luthor talks Deathstroke into switching sides, pointing out that is the Syndicate wins, there will be no need for mercenaries anymore and a wonderful battle between Sinestro and Power Ring where Sinestro severs his arm, forcing the ring to find a new host. The battle and scene ends with both sides agreeing to work together going forward.
The issue ends with a Syndicate group shot looking out into the distance at a red energy wave. Ultraman warns that the force that destroyed their world followed them here.
Issue six opens with Batman, Lex and the Legion preparing to assault the Watchtower and debating the merits and nature of metahumans. They get inside and discover Dick Grayson is attached to the Murder Machine. It is revealed that it is a bomb rigged to his heart. It is counting down and the only way to stop it is for Dick Grayson to die. Their presence also tips off the Syndicate that they’ve invaded and so the Syndicate comes to fight.
There’s an aside between Owlman and his Alfred where Alfred is told to protect Dick at all costs. Owlman feels a bond with this Dick Grayson as his died on Earth 3. Alfred is saying something about their prisoner and goes to the room where the mysterious prisoner is being help but is killed by Black Manta before he can finish his thought.
Lex tries to subdue Batman and seemingly kills Dick Grayson, preventing the bomb from detonating as the counter was under five minutes remaining.
The Syndicate arrives and engages the Legion. Sinestro’s ring finds Firestorm below them and Manta and Captain Cold take the tape of the mysterious prisoner’s mouth. The battles with the Syndicate and the Legion continue and the prisoner shouts Mazahs! revealing himself to be the Earth 3 Captain Marvel. After killing Johnny Quick he monologs for a page and reveals that not only is his a Captain Marvel, he’s also Alexander Luthor.
The final issue begins with Batman and Luthor fighting as Luthor tries to explain that it only seems that Grayson is dead and that he can bring him back. Cyborg, now repaired, arrives and explains that they have a fix to free the Justice Leagues from the Firestorm matrix before it becomes unstable and explodes.
Ultraman and Deathstorm plan a way to subdue Alexander Luthor but he shows up with Superwoman and they reveal that he is the father of Superwoman’s child, not Owlman. They quickly subdue Ultraman and Deathstorm. It’s shown that when Luthor kills a metahuman, like Deathstorm, he takes their powers. Luthor then almost single handedly defeats the Legion and Lex Luthor realizes he’s facing a much more powerful version of himself. He plans with Sinestro and Black Adam, who can temporarily realign Adam’s jaw, to use the future lightning rod which he stole from Batman, to try and force Alexander to change by having Adam summon the Shazam lightning.
Sinistro and Adam fly up to challenge Alexander and carry out their plan. Sinestro stabs Alexander with the lightning rod and Adam grapples with him, calling the lightning. Nothing happens. Alexander decides this is now the time to finish of Lex and smacks him around for a couple pages while monologuing about being stronger and more powerful. Lex realizes that they are the same person and calls the Mazahs lighting which hits Alexander who still has the lighting rod in him. He then kills Alexander before he can say the word again.
Ultraman comes and is about to kill Luthor when the sun starts to shine on him. After failing to take out Alexander, Sinestro and Adam went off to return the moon to its proper orbit. This weakens him to the point of capture. Atomica is seen trying to get out of some rubble and Luthor crushes her under foot.
Batman and Cyborg are shown releasing the Justice League from Firestorm. Still in the same state as at the end of Trinity War, Superman has a piece of Kryptonite in his brain and only Lex can save him. And he does.
Various plot points are cleared up after this. The members of the Legion of Doom are cleared of all charges for their help in saving the world. Owlman is shown to be missing. It’s revealed that Vibe and Element Woman did not come back from the Firestorm matrix and there is actually no trace they ever existed. Finally, a meeting between Luthor and Ted Kord who said he’s willing to sell the company now. Luthor turns him down, saying it’s a family company and that he should run it.
As the League rebuilds, Superman declares that they know who was chasing the Syndicate. He says only Darkseid has the power to destroy worlds and so it must be him. The last page is a character off panel telling the Anti-Monitor that he’s consumed all he can from this universe but that he will find him another and the Anti-Monitor saying he will then destroy Darkseid.
So, on the whole, I think this was an excellent story. Johns wrote a well paced and plotted story that drew from many elements of DC lore. The lightning rod from Legion of Super Heroes. The Anti-Monitor. The Crime Syndicate, of course, a fan favorite villain squad, but modernized to be more than just the core villains of the Silver and Bronze age and calling back more than once to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. There was great use of characters here given that the Justice League was out of action for the whole story. Lex having to step up and start his own team to deal with the vacuum left by the Leagues disappearing.
Unlike Infinity and Final Crisis, this was a fully contained story and if you read none of the cross overs still still understood what was going on and the resolution for this story took place in the pages of this book, not elsewhere.
He’s left quite a few interesting plot ideas to be dealt with. Owlman is on the loose. Superwoman spoke of a prophecy for her baby bringing on an age of darkness. What happened to Vibe and Element Woman? Who was speaking to the Anti-Monitor? In original Crisis, Pariah preceded the Anti-Monitor and was forced to watch as each universe died. Or perhaps an evil version of Harbinger who worked with the Monitor in the original Crisis.
The crossovers and tie-ins were pretty good as well. While I did not read the Justice League crossovers I’m told they did a good job of adding to the core story and giving good back story for people like Owlman and showed the recovery of Cyborg. I did read Arkham War and Rogue’s Rebellion and they were great stories set in the events of the core title but did not need to be read to get the full value of Forever Evil
There are a few problems, though.
Firstly, too many publishing delays. It was bumped three times, at one point putting almost two months between issues 4 and 5. This really took some of the shine off the pearl. Delaying the final issue was far too close to the same thing that happened with Final Crisis where other titles wrapped up the event and the final issue of FC was really an afterthought. Luckily that didn’t happen here. I think this will read much better as a tpb rather than having to wait month to month.
Also, the Finch art is horrendous. Quite a few times I had to take the time to try and decipher what characters I was supposed to be looking at and what they were supposed to be doing. Leifeld bad artwork. It really took away from the punch of the story when you had to determine if Power Ring was trying to reach into Sinestro’s underwear or how exactly Batman got his hips turned that way without turning into a paraplegic.
Finally, the delay in publishing, combined with detailed solicitations for issues taking place after the conclusion of the story ended up taking away some of the drama of the Grayson story. We knew he wasn’t going to die before the issue Lex seemed to kill him. Disappointing.
Still, overall, this is a solid 4 of 5 star book. If you like the feel of the old Silver Age crossovers this is a great piece of DC story telling. As a story to lay the ground work for the 30th anniversary of Crisis next year, it’s a great start. As an event that ignores all the bit hitters, it’s a great success. Give it a shot if any of this appeals to you.
So Dice Masters AvX released today and here’s a quick look at the starter, 20 boosters and my rambling thoughts on the game and components.
Host – A card game for the rest of humanity. Or what’s left of it.
So there’s no deep fluff to this game but the theme is kinda sci-fi with aliens and outbreaks.
This is a very simple game for 2-6 players with time up to 15 minutes.
The goal of this game is to complete the mission you draw from the mission deck. These will be things like collecting 10 inoculates or 5 investigations and invasions.
You work toward this by drawing cards from the Host deck. These cards will be red Infect cards, blue Inoculate cards, green Invasion cards and black Investigation cards. These cards will have values between 1 and 3, both positive and negative. For instance a black card might have +2 Investigation and -2 Invasion while a green card might have +2 Invasion and -2 Investigate. If your mission needs 10 Investigation you’ll need to balance both the positives and the negatives to reach that 10 point goal.
Play is clockwise with each player drawing a card, checking for victory, passing a card, checking for victory and play proceeding if there is no victory. The active player checks for victory after each action. If the card you draw gives you the win, you win immediately. If the card you pass gets you to your win condition, you win. If the player receiving a passed card meets their mission requirements, they win immediately.
Also in the Host deck are cards that direct you to draw an Events can be things like getting a new mission, getting more cards, mission modifiers and redistributing current cards between players. A new mission immediately replaces your current mission. So if you’d been working toward 15 Investigation you might suddenly need to get 10 inoculates.
Finally there are optional Character cards. These are people like The Spy or The Cult Leader that give you an ongoing bonus to a card type. For instance, the UFO Fanatic gives you +2 to Invasion. A cool aspect to the Character cards is that they have QR codes on the back. If you scan the codes, you end up at the Broken Prism website and get a small bio and some info about the character. This does not impact the game at all but is an interesting convergence of cards and QR tech.
The artwork on the cards is basic but it doesn’t need to be fancy. The Host cards look very much like images at a shopping mall or hospital bathroom. It’s simple, colour coded and to the point. The character cards look like charcoal drawings.
Overall, this is a fun filler game. If you’re doing a Pandemic or X-Com night then this is a great starter. It’s fast, simple and with enough randomness to make it more than just a race to 10. I think this is definitely a game to play at 4-6 players. It’s light and social so benefits from being at max players.
Glorious TableTop Day!
So last Saturday I have the distinct privilege of setting up shop at my local gaming store, Mad Hatter’s House of Games, for International TableTop Day. I showed up shortly after the store opened, opened up my giant tub of games, dumped some candies into a massive bowl, and started prowling around for a target to unleash my gaming glory upon! Twelve hours later I drunkenly stumbled back out to my car, wife firmly holding my arm to make sure I didn’t stumble, reloaded everything back into the trunk and trudged home again to pass out upon my bed. There is NOTHING like a gaming day, and boy do I have some tales to tell!
First off I had to start the day with a new game. It’s International TableTop Day! How can you not pick up something new? So I grabbed a game I had been eyeing for a while, Dungeon Roll, and conned one of the other local gamers to teach me the game. A lovely lady by the name of Ruby, whom I’m well acquainted with (she having thrashed me solidly the last time I tried to play Settlers of Catan with her!), sat down and went over the rules with me and did a quick run through of the game. Happy to say it has become a welcomed addition to my pile of games! Very fun little dice came and I suggest anyone interested in it go out and find it right now! I picked up the first expansion for it and put my name on the list for the second expansion when it comes out.
By this time a few others had began to show up so I let Ruby go back to her own activities and went in search of other victims, passing out candy and flash drives full of digital fun along the way. I happened to come across two fairly recent additions to Hatter’s fan club and after a short introduction we sat down and proceeded to my second new game of the night. I had never even heard of Rise of Augustus, but I have to admit, it turned out to be a fun little game that plays a bit like Bingo with decent trick taking elements. We played one game in which I ended up dominating by stealing several cards with high point values and was quickly accused of beginners luck, which I easily admitted to being guilty of. I added Rise of Augustus to the list of games that I think my wife and son would be interested in, neither of which enjoy playing high strategy games but much prefer the more relaxing style of games that Augustus belongs to.
By this time another large group was in full swing playing around us. I never did learn the name of the game but man were they having a BLAST playing it! It consisted of a large number of players split into two parties. Lots of backstabbing and exchanging of hostages was involved, with new presidents being elected! If I hadn’t already promised to play another game I probably would have joined them quickly enough. I believe we were already well past our side room being full of players at this point and our growing party was spilling out into the main room of the store! I was fully enjoying myself at this point and didn’t realize until later that… uh… I kinda forgot to eat. Like, at all. Maybe a couple pieces of the yummy yummy candy I was handing out, but that was it. That’s a good day when a fat man like myself is having too much fun to eat the bag of gummy bears he brought with him!
At some point during all this revelry one of my favorite people to play games with shows up, the co-owner of Hatter’s, Matt. In he comes with one of his latest acquisitions in his hands, The Doom That Came To Atlantic City. Alright, if you haven’t seen this game it looks EXACTLY like Monopoly! No, really, look it up (or someone can put an image of the board up next to this text… huh… huh… no? Okay). I’m not a huge hater of Monopoly, but come on! I’m at TableTop Day and you’re going to break out a variation of one of the most reviled games in the world? Yeah, it isn’t Monopoly. It looks like it, it rolls like it, but you play one of the elder gods bent on the destruction of the world and you accomplish this by rampaging through Atlantic City, destroying buildings, created gateways to the Outer Realms and beating the living crap out of your other players! So much kinder and civilized than the average Monopoly game at my house, awesome! There ended up being five of us playing (I took up the role of Shub-Niggurath) and I spent most of the first half of the game stuck in the Outer Realm trying to get back into the real world and reek some havoc. Suffice it to say I lost… horribly… like I usually do at Monopoly.
It was then that we picked up a sixth player and after some debate decided on a building game that always plays better with more people, Lords of Vegas! (Base game is only for 2-4 players, but the expansions adds two more) That’s right, straight from destroying Atlantic City to building Las Vegas baby! Lords of Vegas is all about building your own casino empire, gaining points based on how many casinos you have when cards are drawn, and making money wherever you can. Where all of the previous games I had played this day were those based on luck of the dice and cards, Vegas allows for plenty of haggling and making deals so it was a good change of pace! I made some good money, put a few pawns on the board and built up one hell of a respectable casino! Hell, near the end I even had a plan to take over the two largest casinos on the board (so long as the dice rolls were decent) and taken a major lead in the game! Of course it is usually at the point where I think I can win that the game ends and I come in dead last place. Man what a rush, though! Lords of Vegas can make and break friendships in a hurry if you’re doing it right!
For the last game of the night we decided to pull out my latest love, the game that I will play at a moment’s notice as soon as anyone shows any sort of interest! Smash Up! Ooohhhh how I love this game! I even got the latest expansion that just recently came out and was just ITCHING for a chance to unload some Cyber Apes or Time Travelers on a fresh crop of victims! I mean players… new players and friends! Having lost one player after Vegas we were down to five, a good strong number for Smash Up to make it so no one player could run away with the points. Everyone got to choose their first pick for the shuffle-deck-building game while the second was completely random, so no one could end up with any of the super-strong combinations, not that there’s much chance of that happening with all the new expansions! I ended up with a hell of a combination of Pirates and Shapeshifters! Hooooboy! If you don’t get any other expansion, get the Science Fiction Double Feature expansion! The Shapeshifters, Cyber Apes, Time Travelers and Spies are a hoot! Just beware the guy who ends up with Dinosaurs combined with Cyber Apes… that was a killer combination and was only just beat out by a crafty little man using Tricksters and Steampunk (From Awesome Level 9000 expansion) at the last minute! It was a glorious game of last minute points and removal of points that just put a great exclamation point on an amazing day of gaming. I wasn’t even upset when I woke up the next morning with mouth dry and my voice in ruins. I can’t remember the last time I had a Gaming Headache, but oh was it worth it!
I made a lot of new friends that day, one of which is already signed up to play the next time I get a Dungeons and Dragons game together! And a few others that are attempting to bribe me out to another game night before I have even recovered from this one! I am looking forward to doing it all again next year though, and hopefully with even great giveaways and prizes! Maybe even some fans of the show will come out and say hello? Hope you do!