29 April 2016

PAX East, Hooray

Last Saturday was our first PAX East. For the past few years we’d talked on and off about going to PAX, but either chickened out (we’re not hardcore enough) or simply missed the very small window of time passes are available. But this year -- with The Husband turning forty and me facing down surgery -- it felt very much like, "if not now, WHEN?" And so I acquired two Saturday passes.

My plan was that I would follow The Husband around PAX, with me very much intending to stay within touching range at all times. PAX East is a big, noisy venue, jam-packed with booths and people, and I am a short anxiety-ridden woman. I figured I’d follow in his wake like a vaguely-worried tugboat, happily absorbing what I could. But The Husband seemed to have other plans and gave me total control, so I towed him about the Exhibit Hall, first in a neat crisscross pattern and then, as the day progressed, in an increasingly willy-nilly fashion from one interesting object to the next.

I completely avoided any booth that looked crowded or had a long line. This means I don’t have any cool swag to show you, because I wasn’t looking for it, and I never got to experience the Oculus Rift or any of the (probably) terribly exciting big name games. I was looking for a low-key good time and, aside from the afternoon madness of the food courts, that is exactly what I got. Ended up meeting a number of earnestly (even sweetly) enthusiastic people who wanted to tell me all about their small, probably-not-going-to-set-the-world-on-fire-but-still-awesome-looking games and that was really cool. I tried out a bunch of tabletop games I enjoyed enough to consider purchasing and I found others that I knew would appeal to my YA/Children’s librarian friends. I also saw a lot of excited young women playing the shit out of games and that made me happy.

Games I saw at Pax East 2016 that I thought were pretty fun (ymmv, obviously):

  • Bad Medicine. As someone with a deep, abiding, and wholly nonsensical love for Theme Hospital, with its ridiculous diseases like Bloaty Head, Slack Tongue, and Third Degree Sideburns, a game that lets me play as a huge and (probably) unscrupulous pharmaceutical company sounds just the thing. Formulate and pitch hot new drugs while totally playing down their (probably) terrible side effects? Sign me up! 3-8 players can participate, although gameplay is impacted by the number of players -- with 5-8 players you split into teams (and this confused me as how do you get even teams with 5 people?). It seems like, with the right mix of friends (librarians and nurses) this game could be a lot of fun, although probably not clean fun. Definitely correctly labeled as a 16+ game.
  • Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! A seriously cute, beautifully illustrated fast-paced rhyming game for all ages featuring fairies and goblins. Turn by turn, match a rhyme in your hand with one in the "fairy ring," until you’ve either gotten rid of all your goblins or obtained 6 fairies. Easy-peasey, right? Ah, but as you play, cards get flipped -- turning fairies into goblins and goblins into fairies. It’s a small group game of 2-4 players and takes about 15 minutes per game, so definitely the kind of game to throw down during a lunch break. If you think Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! sounds fun, you should know it’s spawned a companion jigsaw and coloring book.

  • Simon’s Cat: The Card Game. Obviously, as a Cat Lady, I am completely enamored with the animated web series, Simon’s Cat. In the fast-paced SC:TCG, you take turns around the table, trying to avoid Simon’s attention because receiving attention pretty much guarantees you’ll attract Blame for something and too much Blame means you get fed last. It’s an amusing and extremely simplistic all-ages game. Alas, it is for groups of 3-6 which means it’s not something I can do a quick round or two of with The Husband. And it doesn’t seem ... robust ... enough to invite people round just to play. Maybe, if we hosted a generalized "Let’s try random games from the cupboard and get drunk" night?
  • Candle. This game’s gorgeous, hand-painted watercolor graphics caught my attention right away -- seriously, I was "What? Is? That? I must get closer to it right now?!" -- and I was charmed by the simple story of boy with a candle hand who goes on a dangerous journey, encountering many traps and puzzles along the way. A pretty puzzle game that tells a good story? I’m in. Alas, it’s not out on Steam yet, but soon, I hear.
  • Legends of Callasia. LoC is a turn-based empire-building strategy game very much like Civilization, but simpler and with much faster game play. The booth dude said a game should take 45-120 minutes to complete and, as a person who has lost weeks of her life to Civ, I was happy to hear that. There's an option to battle against friends on a board game-type maps, but I only played a bit of the single player. It's visually attractive, the controls seemed pretty self-explanatory, and one of the countries was named Torenth (massive internalized Katherine Kurtz Deryni-inspired fangirling when I saw that). Free to play of Steam, at the moment, although I cannot get it to work.

  • Metronomicon. I don’t know how to explain this game, but it’s highly addictive fun. You lead a band of musically-inclined heroes against a horde of dancing fiends and it’s kinda-maybe like Guitar Hero, if Guitar Hero were an RPG and didn’t use a guitar? The soundtrack is, unsurprisingly, excellent with lots of electronic synthwave stuff that makes me want to dig up my Trainspotting soundtrack. Graphics are bright, colorful, and amusing. Also not out on Steam yet ... but wishlist away, my dears.
  • Story Warriors: Fairy Tales. Pretty sure this game, with its cute hand-drawn art, is meant for small children who are still mastering reading comprehension and not for grownup women who don’t know what to do about their book-hoarding problem (simply deny there is a problem), but I waaaant this game. I want to navigate Bella through popular fairy tales, solving puzzles with the cleverly used words as I go. And by cleverly used words, I mean you can pull the word "sword" out of the text and it becomes an actual sword you fight an actual dragon (also sprung from the word) with. In the App Store now, but coming to Google Play soon.

We also pre-ordered the super-delicious Secret Hitler with its sexy, satiny, brass-hinged wooden box. We’d played a 10-person game a few weeks ago using the print-and-play version. It was soooo much fun. I was Secret Hitler once and no-one guessed, because they confused me, the devious game player, with me, the nice pizza-buying person and couldn’t believe I was a lying Fascist. Best Friday night in ages, I kid you not. Pretty sure we pr-eordered this just because The Husband wants a crack at being Secret Hitler. (You’ll always be my Secret Hitler, baby).

27 April 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Squirrel!

This eastern gray squirrel was quite sure we must have something interesting in our pockets
and just sat on its haunches, waiting, in the middle of the path.

26 April 2016

Visiting The Comic Store in Nashua, NH

Up in northern Massachusetts/southern New Hampshire last week on a one-day mini-break in which I hoped to eat some good ice cream, acquire bargain-priced quality flannel shirts, and maybe get some new comics. Unfortunately, I over-planned my day (what can I say? The L.L. Bean outlet was a huge time sink) and only made it to one comic book shop -- The Comic Store in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Happily, it was a good choice. A big shop pretty evenly split between comics and tabletop gaming materials. It has a very large and broad assortment of trades, which thrilled me because I am not a fan of single issues. Also a decent amount of shojo and yuri manga mixed in amongst the usual shonen stuff. Staff person I encountered was super-friendly without being unctuous and left me alone once I made it clear I was having a perfectly fine time browsing.

  • Girl Friends: The Complete Collection, Volume 2 by Milk Morinaga. Absolutely scrummy yuri manga about the continuing adventures of two sweet high school girls in love set against a backdrop of the usual friendship and school dramas.
  • I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young. Promises to be a horrifically and hilariously violent take on the usual "seemingly ordinary child wishes herself to fairyland and has marvelous adventures before returning home."
  • The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 1 by Kore Yamazaki. Fantasy shojo manga about an orphaned 15-year-old Japanese girl with strange gifts who sells herself into slavery and comes to be owned by (and affianced to) by an inhuman magician. I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic about this manga – the child slavery and the probable May-December pairing worry me a bit.

I could have bought more, but I was feeling a bit guilty about all the graphics I already own and haven’t read! What can I say? I have a terrible book-collecting habit.

20 April 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Pigeon

Feral pigeon hanging out, looking rather regal ... probably daydreaming it's Batman.