Thursday, July 24, 2014

"What's In The Box?!?" - Episode 1 - "Dungeons & Dragons" Fifth Edition Starter Set


Okay, so I made my first game "un-boxing" video. Man, I feel dirty. 

Honestly, I've never understood the rationale behind these things:

"Welp, here I go! I'm gonna film myself opening this up to see what's inside and youze guys are just gonna sit there and watch me do it! And wow, whatta co-incidence: my copy of the game contains the exact same stuff in every other copy of the game!"

As such, I never felt compelled to make one. That is until my copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Starter Set arrived dans le post.

Try as I might, I just couldn't open it. It sat there hermetically-sealed on my game table for about four or five days. Every time I dimmed the lights, threw on a Barry White record and stripped down to my skivvies I just couldn't bring myself to unwrap the damned thing.

I swear: every time I made a move to breach that cellophane I heard an old, disembodied voice whisper in my ear "Use the video camera, Luke!" Needless to say I thought that was super-weird, 'cuz my name's "Dave" not "Luke".     

So, if you dare enclickify the video below you'll...
  • Find out exactly what's contained in that long-awaited and much-ballyhooed Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Starter Set.
  • See a comparison between some Starter / Basic Sets of yore.
  • Czech out D&D's stiffest competition: the Pathfinder Starter Set.
  • Get my humble first impressions about the game, for whatever that's worth.
Anyway, I hope you dig the vid. I plan to make at least one more of these things fairly soon (you'll see why) but if the response is particularly good I'll think about makin' more of 'em.

Cheers, my Dears!


Wanna get freaky with your very own copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Starter Set? Click on the image below to carry off some phat lootz and help this blog quest on!  


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Games Even A Mom Will Love - "Timeline"

Even though I did talk about Timeline recently, I still feel that it deserves a proper session report and review.

Here's how publisher Asmodee describes the game's general flow:

"To begin, one card is randomly drawn from those not given to players. This is placed in the middle of the table, date-side up and is the starting point of a chronological line which will slowly be built by players. 

"The first player then chooses one of their cards and place it before or after the initial card. The player's card is then turned date-side up. If the player was right, it remains on the table. Otherwise, the card is discarded and a new one must be drawn to replace it. Play proceeds clockwise. 

"The more cards which are correctly played, the harder it is to correctly place new ones! The first player to get rid of their cards wins."

Like a said before, I managed to resist Timeline until the Music & Cinema version came out. After a few plays I decided to augment it with Historic Events just to give the game some more variety. 



A few weeks ago, Cheryl's mom came to visit which is great 'cuz she loves playing games and is always open to try something new. Since she's quite adept at trivia, even getting to the final question in the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? board game once, I decided to open with this one.

GAME ONE

To elongate the game and make it a bit more challenging we decided to play with five cards apiece instead of the usual four. Our starting occurrence was "The start of the Black Death" in 1346. Fun!


TURN ORDER

ME
Starting Cards:

CHERYL
Starting Cards:

SHIELA
Starting Cards:

Cheryl started with a softball, placing the "1'st Pyramid" before the "Black Death". Before I got bogged down in too much ancient history I quickly wedged "Julius Caesar named Dictator for Life" between these two events. Sheila then came along and plopped "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" down after the dudes in the freaky-deaky bird masks.

After Cheryl successfully played "The bombing of Hiroshima" just beyond Jules Verne's fishy masterpiece, she passed the turn on to me. I managed to rally back by wedging "Attila crowned King of the Huns" in between Caesar and the start of the Plague. Sheila then shoe-horned "The Crucifixion of Jesus" between Attila the Bun and the Black Death.

At the top of the next round, Cheryl logically placed the "Alea Jacta Est" quote after Doctor J. declared himself the Roman Mac Daddy, but, as it turned out, this happened five years earlier. As a result, Cheryl was forced to ditch this card and draw a new one. Meanwhile, I took a wild guess by slotting the "Building of (the) Lighthouse of Alexandria" between the Pyramids and Julius Caesar. On her turn, Sheila interposed "The Last Crusade" between Djesus Unchained and la Peste Noire.

Cheryl battled back, placing "The assassination of J.F.K." at the end of the Timeline. I responded by cramming "The Start of the Civil War" in between the Black Death and 20,000 Leagues. Sheila completed this perfect round by playing "The Start of World War II" between the adventures of Captain Nemo and Hiroshima go boom.

I successfully tabled my fifth and final card, "The (Start of the) Colonization of Africa", in its proper place between the Black Death and the Civil War. Cheryl continued to add to the more recent side of the timeline with "The Fall of the Berlin Wall" in 1989 but with one card still remaining she was officially out of contention. I was hoping that Sheila would botch her last placement but she successfully dumped the "End of World War II" between Hiroshima and the Warren Commission's ludicrous assertion that a lone nut shot J.F.K. in a moving car from over eighty meters away with a crappy bolt-action rifle.

Um, sorry, I was just supposed to think that not write it.

Sudden Death Overtime

I was lucky enough to draw "The End of World War I" and hammer it in between 1869 and 1939. Sheila had to take an educated guess with "The First Train Accident", but she managed to wedge it in between "The Colonization of Africa" and my previously played derailment card.

In the second round I easily found a spot for "Woodstock" between JFK and the Berlin Wall. Sheila lucked out with "Dinosaurs Become Extinct" for the top of the timeline.

My next turn was nowhere near as easy. Even though I'm quite keen on Norse history I had no idea where to place "Vikings loot the Tomb of Charlemagne". But knowing that they'd been up to their wacky hijinx for quite some time, I reasoned that it probably happened sometime before the Last Crusade. Not the Indiana Jones movie, you chuckle-heads, the real Last Crusade! Sure enough, my hunch proved accurate. Sheila, sharp cookie that she is, had little trouble remembering that the "American Declaration of Independence" was inked in 1776.

With the timeline now quite convoluted, mistakes were inevitable. I failed to place "The Fall of Constantinople" in the proper spot and assumed that I was sunk. Mercifully, Sheila misplayed "Start of the taming of the Wild West" and the battle across time raged on!

Given a new lease on life I drew and then confidently played MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963. Sheila countered with the "Start of World War I" in 1914.

The next round was equally weak for both of us. I goofed up the "Start of the 100 Years' War" while Sheila fumbled "The Birth of the Dollar".

Finally, there was a crack in this stalemate. Thanks to the fact that I'd been reading Jack Whyte's "The Knights Templar Trilogy" I knew right away that they were formed in 1119. Sheila, on the other hand, underestimated just how long the dogs have been Man's Best Friend.

I WIN!!!


GAME TWO

For the second game we decided to switch to the Music & Cinema set. Once again we played "five card stud" (?) and kicked things off with E.M., the Elephant-Man. Er, I mean E.T., the Extra-Testicle.

Man, the art on this card is downright heinous. "I AM NOT AN ANIMAL!!!"


TURN ORDER

ME
Starting Cards:


SHEILA
Starting Cards:


CHERYL
Starting Cards:

I kicked things off by successfully placing Elton John's "Candle in the Wind". Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" was a no-brainer. Cheryl had no problem slotting "Seven" into the opposite end of the timeline. 

Having lived through the reign of terror of The Village People I knew that "Y.M.C.A." belonged somewhere in the late Seventies, after Elton but years before E.T.. Sheila goofed on "The Blues Brothers" and was forced to draw a new card. I beamed with pride when Cheryl successfully placed John Carpenter's "The Thing" right between "E.T." and "Seven". That's my girl!

As a sci-fi / horror fanatic, I could have placed "Alien" with my eyes closed. Sheila also derped "Taxi Driver", proving that the "Historical Events" were definitely her stronger suit. Cheryl also made a "Titanic"oversight, placing it after "Seven".

Looking at what I had left I decided to ditch "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straights before the Eighties got too convoluted. After getting two wrong answers in a row, Sheila was officially eliminated from the game. Cheryl, on the other hand, successfully played "The First Cannes Film Festival" and all of us were surprised by just how early the date was.

I deliberately held on to Peter Jackson's "The Return of the King" because I knew for sure that it was released in 2003. With that, I'd played by fifth card, outdistancing my opponents.

I WIN!!! 


***

REVIEW

PROS
  • The game is so simple yet clever that people immediately want to try it as soon as you give them the elevator pitch!
  • Attention teachers: Timeline positively begs to be demoed en masse in the classroom! The first time I played it I was completely absorbed by the elegant design and obsessed with showing off my "big" brain. It didn't even dawn on me that I was actually - EEK!!! - learning something.  
  • Each cool l'il tin will only set you back about twelve or fourteen bones. As a side note: they make awesome gifts for trivia nuts.
  • Between all the different flavors, there's quite a bit of variety here. In addition to the two sets I have there's also Inventions, Diversity, Discoveries and an offshoot called Cardline which features Animals and geography. Naturally Music & Cinema is all contemporary compared to the sometimes-ancient or prehistoric occurrences in Historic Events, but it still seems to work.
  • Generally speaking, the artwork is evocative, charming and whimsical. At best the illustrations provide much-needed clues to help players place their cards. Witness the great art on "Seven Samurai", "Godzilla", "Star Wars", "Thriller", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Rocky", "The Blues Brothers", "The Great Dictator", "Seven", "Saturday Night Fever" and "The Shining". 
CONS
  • It's a damned good thing that they are cheap 'cuz yer prolly gonna commit all one-hundred and ten cards to memory pretty quick, especially if you play the game with any regularity.
  • The artwork can also be unintentionally hilarious. At worst it can actually make you think: 'Hmmmmm, has the artist ever actually ever seen their subject matter? Like, ever?'  Witness the "Relapse", "Sgt. Pepper", "Pulp Fiction", "Satisfaction", "Taxi Driver", "Money For Nothing" and "Terminator"cards. In addition to having a face like a half-chewed caramel Elvis on the "Love Me Tender" card appears to have dickfingers. Dickfingers, fer Chrissakes.
***
Unfortunately when most people think of "trivia games", they think of Trivial Pursuit. What I despise most about that old chestnut is that it constantly makes you feel like a moron just because you don't know that "the official hair consultant to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics" was Vidal Sassoon. Seriously, the only way I'd ever play that antiquated piece of crap is if someone puts a gun to my head and even then I'd insist on playing on a team with one sports geek allocated per squad.

Mercifully innovative and clever games like Timeline provide a more succinct and enjoyable gaming experience. Just know that if you plan to play a lot then you'd better allocate some extra space on your shelf for a few more of those pretty, shiny metal tins.

I give the Timeline series four pips outta six with a tilt up towards Asmodee's profit margins.


***

Wanna learn somefin' through the medium of fun? Click on the following link to get more info about Timeline and ensure that this blog has a future.