This sequel/prequel is clearly worthy of the Pixar name. A great story with timely comedy and a perfect message. Accurately targets and re-creates the college experience. While Monsters Inc. was really Sully’s story. Monsters University is all about Mike and plays it wonderfully. Still can’t believe the short in front of it is all animation.

Culture Conquistadors Season 1

The first season of the Culture Conquistadors podcast has come to a close. About a year ago, Charles and I finally jumped on the audio podcast format. We’re both avid movie goers and the podcast has given us a platform to share our thoughts with our friends and family. We held a March Madness inspired tournament involving 100 animated films. We’ve seen good action flicks and bad action flicks. Superhero movies. Indie films and blockbusters. We’ve also listened to pop music and watched amazing television shows like The Americans. In total, we’ve recorded over 40 episodes!1

It’s been an amazing first year. We’ve learned a lot and hope you’ve seen the growth from our early attempts. The recording and production quality has improved. The podcast has a name and the discussions flow better. We even have a theme!2 We tried a book club and now our individual reviews are being published on the website. Basically, we feel we’re in a much better place than we were a year ago and we’re only looking to get better.

So what does Season 2 bring? A more consistent and timely schedule. Movies are only in theaters so long and if it takes a month for us to record and produce, we really can’t convince our listeners to go out and see the movie unless it’s already a big success. Towards the end of Season 1 we improved greatly in this area and we’re hoping to build on that for the next season.

An expansion of our contributors and our content. We’re launching a new podcast, Gaming Guerrillas, that will be hosted by myself and Ben. We’ll be discussing everything gaming, table top, role-playing, computer and consoles. And it won’t just be reviews, we’ll also talk about RPG topics like world building, character creation, story telling and adventure writing. No matter what type of gaming you prefer, we’ll be bringing you a podcast that we hope you’ll find appealing.

In addition, we’re making our first foray into original video content. Charles has already experimented with reviews but now we’ll be exploring

  1. Some were lost to the awfulness of technology and the internet. 
  2. Written by Charles! 

So much better than the trailer and thus exceeded my expectation by miles. Also, nothing like the book it’s supposed to be based upon. They probably should have just reverted the rights and re-titled it. Pitt does a serviceable job, but I can’t help but think that someone different would have worked far better. Glad they kept the family as a background motivation rather than making it the central theme.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this movie. The performances were solid. The story was okay. The action scenes were average. Basically it’s a perfectly average film. No need to rush seeing this one. Catch it when you can.

In about a month, I’ll be traveling to Atlanta for Dragon*Con and I’m super excited. Earlier this year, I attended my first con, MegaCon in Orlando, Florida. I had such a great experience between the panels, the exhibitor’s hall and the special guests, I couldn’t imagine a better time. Well I could, I could be going with a bunch of my closest and geekiest and nerdiest friends. Previously, I had made half-hearted plans to attend PAX or PAX East with a few friends. But one of them moved to Atlanta just before summer and it all clicked. We’d go to Dragon*Con!

It didn’t take long to convince my friends to join me. The stories and pictures I had from MegaCon were more than enough to prove that it was a worthwhile venture. But there was something else that I felt could make the experience even better, a group cosplay. For the unfamiliar, at these fan cons, people dress up in costumes from their favorite games, books, movies and genres. Some go as individuals, others as couples and some as groups. The detail and effort people put into their costumes is amazing. But the group cosplays are the best. The effort and detail of the individual cosplays and then you mix in the coordination for five or more people!

So, with about ten of my close friends, we’re traveling to Dragon*Con as characters from Red Dragon Inn. The coordination and selection was difficult. With a diverse group of friends, finding something that appealed to everyone proved harder than expected. We’ve got D&D players, video game lovers, Whovians, Trekkies and others. We were voting and a couple of us suggested “generic band of adventurers” and then the light came on, Red Dragon Inn! They’re generic enough where we’ll be a merry band of adventurers to most people in small groups or alone. But when we’re together, and the right people are around, it’ll be easy to pick us out as RDI.

I’ve got most of the materials for my costume at this point, I just need to start putting it all together. A subset of my local friends went out to Goodwill, JoAnn’s Fabrics and Play It Again Sports to gather our materials. I’ve decided to be Remy from the upcoming expansion. I have pants, a shirt, a jacket, a sword and material for a cape. I’m unsure about how to stud the jacket and at this point I won’t be wearing blue paint or a wig, though elf ears are a likely addition. So next weekend I’ll be working on making a bunch of progress in putting it together. Then I’ll have about three weeks to put on the finishing touches. I’m excited and I’ll write a follow-up post after next weekend.

So many problems with this movie. Especially Superman killing someone and ignoring the innocent bystanders in peril. During the battle in Smallville he easily could’ve moved the fight away from the general populace, it’s freaking Kansas. Amy Adams is wonderful as Lois Lane. This movie tries to take too much and takes too dark of a tone. I was thoroughly disappointed and my expectations weren’t even that high to begin with. It earns an average grade. Don’t need to see it on the big screen but its worth watching for what it will lead to in the future.

Back in April, Wil Wheaton played a game called The Resistance on Tabletop during season 2 episode 2. The game is very reminiscent of mafia and werewolf but is far more structured which is a much needed improvement to the genre. The players are either loyal members of a resistance or undercover government spies. The spies are aware of one another and work towards destroying the resistance cell. Five to ten players can participate and the goal is to take a majority of the rounds. Pretty simple.

The game begins with the spies acknowledging each other.1 Afterwards, leadership is bestowed upon one (un)lucky individual.2 Each mission has a set of number of participants. The leader assigns people to the mission team (and may choose him or herself). Once the team is selected, every person in the game votes to approve or reject the mission team. Majority wins but ties go to the rejectors. If the mission team is rejected, the mantle of leadership passes to the left and the mission round begins anew. Five consecutive rejections and the spies win the game.

If the team is approved, each team member is given a success and a fail card. Loyal resistance members must submit the success card and discard the fail card. Government spies may submit either card. Once all the mission cards have been submitted, the leader shuffles the cards and reveals them. If there is a single failure, the mission fails and the spies are one step closer to victory.3 Sans fail cards, the loyal resistance members are one step closer to bringing down their oppressors. Either way, the mantle of leadership passes to the left and the mission marker is moved to the next mission.

Rules-wise, this is a fairly simple game that can be hours of fun. We’ll often play several rounds over the course of a couple hours. But there’s a lot of strategy and depth to this game. How well can you deceive your friends? How well can you read your friends? What’s the best strategy for getting yourself onto a team? Can you make reasonably sounding arguments that will lead other players to the wrong conclusion? Can you sacrifice yourself to ensure your fellow spies are not found out?

After everyone’s got a feel for how to play the base game, you can introduce plot cards. There are three types of plot cards, Leadership (Star), Always On (Square), One Time Use (1). Plot cards are only drawn once per mission. So if the mantle of leadership moves for some reason (a plot card, a failed team vote), the new leader does not draw more card. At the beginning of each mission, the leader draws two plot cards from the deck and must distribute them to other players. The exception is Leadership cards which must be used by the leader. These cards are drawn and distributed before any mission team selection. Some cards reveal how mission cards were submitted, some force players to reveal their character cards to other players, some force players to vote first and some move the mantle of leadership or nullify a vote. These cards stir up the game quite a bit but are lots of fun.

Fair warning, there will be lots of raised voices and heated discussions. Also be mindful of your tells. And try to play in similar ways as a loyalist or a spy. Given enough time, patterns will develop and observant players will be able to pick you out as a spy quickly. For example, my best friend, who’s known me for over two decades, can tell within a mission or two whether I’m a spy or not. Another friend of mine is incredibly easy for me to read and I can often pick out when she’s a loyalist.

So, if you’re able to get a decent sized group together for game nights, Resistance can fill the hole when most of your games are 2-4 players. I highly recommend it and I’ll have a post on it’s cousin, Resistance: Avalon, soon.

  1. Everyone close your eyes. Spies open your eyes. Spies close your eyes. Everyone open your eyes. 
  2. I hate being the first leader. There’s almost no information to play on unless you’re a spy. 
  3. The fourth mission can be an exception to this rule. In larger games, a single fail does not fail the mission. 

Will Smith is an awesome freaking actor. Even when he’s playing a stern, military savior, he’s a great presence. The surreal scenes on the river were too much but what do you expect from M. Night Shamylan? Unfortunately, Jayden needs a good acting coach. Not sure if Will isn’t teaching him or just can’t teach. But Jayden is so stiff and the movie suffers from it. The sci-fi aspects are neat but the monsters are a bit weird. Bad movie because Jayden ruins it.

A month and a half ago, Mojang announced the open beta for their next game, Scrolls. Scrolls is a mix of collectible card game and a miniature war game. Each player takes their turn casting scrolls from their hand to place units on the board or affect units on the board. To win, a player must destroy three of their opponent’s five 10 hit point totems.

The board is a grid of hexes in a three column, five row layout per side. Creatures on the board have attack ratings, hit points and countdowns. When a creature’s countdown hits 0, it attacks the creatures or totems in it’s row. Once per turn you can discard a card in your hand to either gain one resource or draw two cards. Each card has a resource cost to cast.

Two weeks ago, I finally installed the game and played all weekend and at least an hour each night since then. Unfortunately, this game just doesn’t have the depth that is necessary for it to succeed yet. There are only three factions and while well defined, they’re a bit boring. A fourth resource is in testing and will bring some need variety. The cardpool is shallow with only 145 cards divided between the three resource types.

The game’s single player component is basically non-existant. You can play quick matches against three different levels of AI but there’s no story or campaign mode. It has been promised but it doesn’t look like it’s a high development priority at the moment. Ranked matches could be fun but the shallow cardpool makes it difficult for a complex metagame to develop. In addition, some of the mechanics and rules will make card advantage far more important than in other card games.

One of the supposed advantages Scrolls will have over other collectible card games is that they can update every version of a scroll whenever they want. They don’t have to worry about reprint rules. And yet, they’re only releasing a few cards every few weeks. I believe they’re spending too much balancing scrolls in their QA process. They should design new scrolls, give it a few passes and release to the beta. The metagame will quickly smoke out any overly powerful cards and the development team can tweak from there.

I suppose these negatives are a natural part of designing a new collectible game and part of being in beta. But I really can’t recommend Scrolls to anyone but the most dedicated playtesters or collectible card game fans. And even then it comes with a warning that the cardpool is shallow which makes the metagame non-existant. If you can manage to trudge through all this, it’s a pretty game that will fill your CCG addiction without killing your wallet.

Watch this movie. It had me guessing from the beginning and kept me off-balance through the twist. I loved this movie. They left a few good plot threads hanging and had they used them a bit more it probably would’ve made a more complete totally awesome film. Instead it’s high on my list but will probably sink down as more movies come out. Expect it remain in the top third though.