KickStarter Updates and Citadels

I really prefer to post on Tuesday and Thursday. But some weeks, that’s just not possible. Too much going on can keep me from getting my thoughts down. This week it was coding assignments on my other blog, Mad Tech-Priest. I have this new thing where whenever someone challenges me to do a coding test, I put the answer up there just to prove I know my stuff and look really… cool, I guess.

You got me. I don’t know what cool is.

So first the news, and not the boring kind. The Conan board game finished it’s KickStarter round of funding two days ago, and it was a whooping $3.3 million. This makes the game the most successfully funded board game in KickStarter history. Yes, I went ahead and bought a copy of it after the great fun I’ve tried Citadels with friends. As of late, I feel inclined to try something bold and new. And maybe playing games as Conan is just the way to do it.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong is closing in on the $1 million, at which point backers can enjoy the extended mini-campaign at the end. It has 4 days left and (as of this post) about $70,000 more to go. The game is fully funded either way, but one can always hope for a little more. This is going to be a close one.

Speaking of close. Project Scissors: NightCrywhich I covered in my previous blog entry, is starting to rally some. It’s too early to call it a comeback just yet, but the jump in funding for the project has put them just under the half way mark. With 9 days left to go, stranger things can happen.

CitadelsSo as of last weekend, I’ve been playing a new (to me) card game called Citadels. The primary goal of the game is just to build a medieval city using gold pieces. But more than a race, other players have the ability to thwart you as they rush to finish their own towns.

Game play revolves around picking one or two (during 2-3 player games) roles with different abilities, with each role ranked to determine play order. Strategy revolves around what role a player chooses (and thus denies to other players), forcing players to build a careful strategy. While there is a tiny element of chance in the game, as players cannot know what city cards they’ll draw, the randomness is mitigated by being able to choose one of two drawn cards. Thus strategy reigns supreme.

The roles vary in value per each round. The King, for example, allows you to have first pick of roles during the next round. The Assassin can wipe a player’s turn out, while the Merchant can net extra gold for each green market district you possess. Bluffing is valuable because if one player grows abusive with a particular role, such as using the Warlord to destroy rival districts, that player might find himself the target of the Assassin. Or the Architect might have his gold stolen by the Thief to keep him from suddenly building three districts.

A final detail is that while getting all 8 districts of your city built gives you extra points, it does not guarantee that you’ll win the game. There are plenty of cheap, low value districts that can speed a player to the finishing line. But it’s the total value and combination of all districts that determines the winner. If one player builds several high value districts while another gets eight lower value ones, that player still might not win. This can make for some interesting back peddling later, forcing the owner of the cheaper citadel to react and increase their value.

Three more things give Citadels great value. First, it can be played for up to 8 players, making it a fantastic party game. Second, I was able to purchase it for $20, which included its expansion set. And third, the game really isn’t difficult to learn, although the rules change slightly depending on the number of players who have joined. So if you’re looking for some fun for the remainder of this winter, check it out.

Script Writing…

There are two things that really inspire people artistically. The first occurs when something is incredibly good. You can bring up several directors and comedians on Wikipedia and they’ll have a small section dedicated to other directors, comedians and philosophers who have inspired them to greatness. Fantastic writing charges me to keep trying.

The second is when someone takes something you love and screws it up.

For example, there has yet to be a truly amazing movie about the Punisher for one. Thomas Jane’s The Punisher was probably the most successful of all three (yes three) Punisher films, and yet was not a huge success. It has garnered a cult following and was financially successful, though not a box office smash. The first and third, starring Dolph Lundgren and Ray Stevenson respectively, were not amazing commercially nor critically. The irony is that Garth Ennis produced some incredible source material with the Punisher Max imprint. I own almost all his work on the Punisher and it is applause worthy in its execution.

Born

How good was Ennis? Even the origin story, the stereotyped, boring birth of the hero, rocked. Garth Ennis’ Born took place during the Vietnam war, with Captain Frank Castle leading his men on patrols into the jungles and dealing with military bureaucracy. Instead of life-long lessons in the middle of puberty, we get hard edged tests of morality that Castle already knows his answers to.

It’s incredibly bizarre that someone has taken the time to create a magnificient, powerful character with intriguing stories. And no one has yet to do him justice on the screen.

Of course, the Punisher is not the only character or franchise to get shafted by the Hollywood machine. And for some of these, Hollywood is trying to correct the problem. The recent reboot of Conan did so poorly, they’ve actually asked Schwarzenegger to come back. If they decide to make the new movie about King Conan, it will be interesting to see if Arnie’s experience as the Governor will be relatable on the big screen.

But the most recent failure that has prompted me to say something is Silent Hill: Revelations 3D.

The first movie was alright. It was a horror franchise, which lowers the bar of expectations. But it was reasonably faithful to the source material and visually appealing. The story made some sense. A lot of it was based on the first game, but they were willing to take elements of other titles. It was also financially successful, earning around $97 million out of a cost of $50 mill. 

The most recent movie took the majority of its basis from the third game. And apparently, it has failed the test badly. The critics, who weren’t really impressed with the first one, were not as forgiving the second time. It is not yet a commercial success, although with a price tag of $20 million, it is somewhat likely to at least earn back what it cost.  What’s even more scary is the fact that this movie happened to have some decent acting talent to it, including Carrie Anne-Moss, Sean Bean and Malcolm McDowell.

It is a Halloween miracle that they decided to skip the second game, which so happens to be my favorite. Which means its still open to development. Silent Hill 2 flourishes on the elements that can be better related on the big screen. Character development, dialogue. An intriguing story of guilt and personal demons over the monsters and cults.

So I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at script writing, a different media compared to the short stories and novels I am used too. With the right actor and right script, Silent Hill 2 could smash the video game-movie stereotype over its knee. Done wrong, my soul will be murdered. The cause of death? Cynicism.

The sad fact is, whomever is picked as the director will have more power than the script writer would. And video game inspired movies always tend to attract real bottom-of-the-barrel directors. Uwe Boll and Paul W.S. Anderson for example.

Ideally, a growing number of people are determined to prove that video games are art, and I am among them. The problem is that this definition has failed to be carried to another media. But art is universal, it should be able to be crafted beautifully on the big screen. There must be a way it can transition, and well. Until it can, Roger Ebert is being proved correct in his assertion that games cannot be art.

Mr. Miyagi Me

Last Friday, I saw Crazy, Stupid, Love. In it, Ryan Gosling‘s character is trying to teach Steve Carell how to pick up women. Gosling asks Carell if he has seen The Karate Kid, mentioning the scene where Mr. Miyagi teaches his pupil by having him wax. By paying attention to Gosling, Carell had been figuring out how to connect with women.

For me, I get the same thing through reading various authors.

There’s J.R.R. Tolkien. His stories are powerful, but most of the story isn’t told through narrative but through the conversations of his characters. It’s not difficult to imagine Ian McKellen telling the tale of Sauron in his powerful and magnetic voice. But by using dialogue, the words and sentences are simpler. It’s easy to digest and harder to put down, simply because of how well the tale is told.

That's the one, officer. He changed my writing style against my will... with AWESOMENESS.

That's the one, officer. He changed my writing style against my will... with AWESOMENESS.

Then there’s Robert E. Howard. The creator of Conan the Barbarian, he had a passion for bold and powerful descriptions. His character was beyond larger than life, but rather like Atlas, a titan who carried the world on his shoulders. The poignant paragraphs swamped the mind and made the stories a challenge to enter. But once you were in the story, you keep going. And it grows on you and grows and grows. But it frustrated me because most of his work was short stories, so they often came to abrupt endings. Only The Hour of the Dragon kept going, and as such it was probably my favorite of his works. Like a horse walk that builds to a trot before galloping to glory.

Stieg Larsson is new to my repertoire, and his writing style is completely different than the rest of them. The difference being is that the pieces written by Howard and Tolkien were fantasy pieces from the imagination, but Larsson’s work stemmed from his experiences as a writer. I’ve only finished one of his books and will check out the other two eventually, but the thing I love about this guy is his ability to develop characters. They are very deep, complex characters who don’t always follow society’s rules. Sadly, I cannot really rely on his writing style for short stories because a single character would eat up so much space within the story, unless introducing the character is the entire point of the tale.

I could go on with more examples, but I think my point has been made. That in reading of the work of these men, I like to pretend that I’ve learned a little something about writing.

Maybe. Possibly. No? Okay…

Still, everyone learns from someone. We are usually fans before we are writers ourselves. And I figured, it’s always good sometimes to reconnect with those people who inspire you. To never lose sight of the where it all comes from. And to build these little shrines in our own writing, these mementos so we don’t forget. Guess I’m just sentimental like that.

Blood for the Blood God

Rock for the Rock God!

Rock for the Rock God!

Yes Union Jack’s, I will not use your wifi connection for terrorism or to make nuclear weaponry. I promise.

Okay, sorry about that. Today I’m reviewing a book by C.L. Werner, who is something of a mentor to me writing wise. The man is the heir apparent to the writings of Robert E. Howard, creator and original author of Conan the Barbarian. Robert Howard’s writing was bold, full of description and depth. It was very hard to step into the short stories at first because of how thick they were. But once you did, you were enthralled, you kept going and going as you get sucked into the world that Howard wrote.

For these reasons, be ready for thick tale if you read this book. It’s probably best done when you have a few hour chunks set aside to really dive through the pages, so you can fully and honestly concentrate on the graphic visuals. Turn off the television, play music with no lyrics if you must and just read.

Blood for the Blood God is a stand alone book that takes place in the Chaos Waste, far to the north of the Empire. Although there are many tribes that exist among the wastes, the story is a tale of eight, who are caught up in an ancient feud. Dorgo is the son of one of the eight chieftains. In an ambush led by one of the other tribal leaders, Dorgo witnesses the chieftain slaughtered by the Skulltaker, a menace as old as the feud itself. The news is not well received by Dorgo’s father. But when Dorgo’s words are proven true, the lad is set out on a quest that may allow him to kill the Skulltaker.

Blood for the Blood God is a strong tale, mixing several great components: The history of the tribes and their political bickering, the elements of a heroic quest against the dark setting of Chaos. C.L. Werner’s book is a window into tribal life in the servitude to the dark gods.

Ask him about his tailor. I DARE you.

Ask him about his tailor. I DARE you.

The book is a prologue, a precursor to the daemon known as the Skulltaker: who he was and what he became. But more importantly, Blood for the Blood God is an eye opener into the cults of Khorne. The usual stereotype is that all Khorne worshipers are just crazed blood lusting warriors with no regard to the necessities of food, maintaining their equipment or doing anything to survive beyond what they can take from their victims. But in truth, they are not as one dimensional as people believe. Other stories written about the cults of Khorne would also work to minimize this stereotype. But make no mistake, for despite Khornite warriors having to go through the same struggles to survive as everyone else, they are still awesome warriors. And despite whatever sympathies you may have for Dorgo’s strife, no tale about the struggles of Chaos can ever end on a happy note.

Quakin’

I wish it was that kinda Quake...

Quake II wasn't bad, but Quake D.C. kind of sucked.

Alright, so yours truly was temporarily delayed yesterday thanks to tremors that struck the east coast of the United States.

The rumbling started while I was at my desk at work. For a moment, I wondered if someone was jumping around or intentionally shaking my cubicle, but when other people mentioned it as well I realized it was quake tremors. I imagine that explosives, like some people guessed, are more likely to be a powerful shake and then done. That is unless they were placed to demolish a building, where proper placement and timed detonations would collapse a building. Hence when it started going down, I acted on my elementary school training and threw myself under my desk should anything fall. About five seconds later,  I was told we were to evacuate the building. So I snatched my bag and joined everyone else in orderly but hasty departure.

Everyone dashed outside after swamping the staircases. We assembled in the parking lot, laughing about it. My Facebook news feed was abuzz with news about it, and during the jog down ten flights of stairs I even managed to squeeze out a message via my phone. Everyone was fine, just shook up by the experience. Unlike the west coast, we don’t get many earth jiggles in these parts. Still, we slowly began to laugh and take it easy about the news. 5.8 in Virginia. Could have been worse than a few broken bottles and minor scraps. Phone signals were weakened by traffic of people calling but still got through to make sure my family was alright after a few tries.

Still, you can’t go through a mid-sized earthquake without some collateral damage. The news later said that the Washington Monument and National Cathedral both took some structural damage. The Cathedral definitely got it worse, with three of the four pinnacles falling. Those tops are the highest in all of D.C., so repairing them will be a pain. Still, anyone who has attended the church on a Sunday knows that they’re good for it, either now or soon enough.

Also of interest, certain animals at the Washington Zoo started acted erratically a full fifteen minutes before the tremors ever struck. Taken from the Washington Post’s article:

The first warnings of the earthquake may have occurred at the National Zoo, where officials said some animals seemed to feel it coming before people did. The red ruffed lemurs began “alarm calling” a full 15 minutes before the quake hit, zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said. In the Great Ape House, Iris, an orangutan, let out a guttural holler 10 seconds before keepers felt the quake. The flamingos huddled together in the water seconds before people felt the rumbling. The rheas got excited. And the hooded mergansers — a kind of duck — dashed for the safety of the water.

We WILL persevere!

We WILL persevere!

So we’re fine over here. Let go early, so we jetted on home. Some people were a little shook up over it, but we’ll be alright.

My plans to see Conan the Barbarian tonight got canceled however as traffic flooded the streets, so I parked myself at my favorite bar and chatted with my bartender, and backlogged a review for C.L. Werner’s Blood for the Blood God.

So that’s all the news for now. Working on a few reviews and am considering a musing piece about Khorne that may rock your socks off. Might try to line up another 10 songs for writing, probably looking for more ambient tunes and music. Then I’ll be hitting up the rest of my piece for September. Got to stay focused, earthquakes be damned.