Tag Archives: John Calhoun

Super Dungeon Tactics

Super Dungeon Tactics is the late 2016 release from Underbite Games. Created in partnership with miniatures design company Soda Pop Miniatures and board game maker Ninja Division, the game draws from the tabletop lineage of its patrons to build a vibrant, turn-based fantasy.

At first blush, Super Dungeon Tactics feels like a game for the young at heart. Calling back to the earliest of turn-based strategy titles, players are set in a world of bright colors and chibi-like sprites. The starting heroes, a dwarven warrior and an elven mage, are enthusiastic and excited about their battles.

Honestly, I did zero background on the game before booting it up. When I realized it was a turn-based strategy, I immediately began to compare it to The Banner Saga. That was unfortunate, given how different these games are. While the Banner Saga is a depressing, Viking-inspired tale of woe with roots in games like Oregon Trail, Dungeon Tactics is cut from a more upbeat, playful cloth.

The aesthetic reminded me almost immediately of early Final Fantasy games or, perhaps, the Legend of Heroes Franchise. Dialogue is often between two or more colorfully animated portraits with a shifting array of facial expressions. However, the actual game world and combat stages are nicely computer rendered.

Once you’re situated, the player gets to develop a guild as part of the broader mission to save the fantasy world of Crystalia from the forces of darkness. That mechanic includes several unlockable heroes who can be equipped, developed and deployed for your missions. While not ground-breaking, I did enjoy the ability to name my heroes. I couldn’t resist at least a slight grin whenever a character referred to my mage, KayFlay, or my dwarf, Post Malone.

Rounds of combat are punctuated with random dice rolls that do something good or bad to your heroes. For example, a dice roll may give the player +1 health, which can then be applied to the character of their choosing.

The game is technically proficient, though not perfect. The music is exactly what you would expect; though I had trouble recalling what it generally sounded like once I walked away. The extended prologue can be a bit of a slog, but does a solid job walking players through party play and environmental interactions. Both I and a friend sampled Super Dungeon Tactics, and if we had a single complaint, it was menu organization. Mission setup can feel tedious and, even within the game itself, button clicks are cumbersome. For example, the tutorial instructs you to drag your character to a location rather than click the square you want him or her to move to. After dragging, the game confirms the move. Alternatively, there is an unstated option to double click, but this causes the character to complete the move without confirmation from the game.

Dungeon Tactics also appears not to be optimized for touch screens, but players can still paw clumsily around. This is a non-gripe, as it doesn’t really take anything away from the experience, but touch controls would have opened some interesting possibilities.

Overall, Super Dungeon Tactics is a great pick. Solid gameplay and a vibrant setting make for an adventure that feels both a bit like a board game and an heir to the classic turn-based strategies of old.

Links and Extras:

Underbite Games

Soda Pop Miniatures

Super Dungeon Tactics’ Steam Page

Ninja Division

The Cool Ship was provided a copy of Super Dungeon Tactics for review purposes.

 

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Gen Con: The Best Laid Plans of Gamers and Geeks

 

shepard

Super Creep Face. I don’t normally look like this, I promise.

 

I’m super-mega excited for Gen Con this year. Not only are John and I both attending again, but we’ll be bringing a couple of friends along with us. Twice the people means twice the fun, right? Probably.

I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to approach the Con this year. It’s my third year, and I feel like I’m only scratching the surface of what Gen Con has to offer. There’s so much to do! Even if I went the entirety of the four days without sleeping, there’s no way I’d get to do a tenth of what’s available.

So, here’s the plan.

1.) Meet people — I’m a naturally shy person. I don’t generally like to “put myself out there” when it comes to meeting people, but I think it’s time to put on a friendly convention persona. I bought some business cards and stickers to hand out, and I volunteered to run a game for the good folks at Kobold Press. I really envy people that have friends they meet up with at Gen Con every year. So, I guess my goal is to make friends and influence people.

hypnotoad

HIRE ME TO EDIT YOUR STUFF.

2.) Do more — I’m signed up for some panels, some games, and I’m going to the big masquerade ball. I might even don a costume. I’m trying out my first True Dungeon run, and I’ll pretend to be on the crew of a star ship with Artemis. I’m also hoping to come away with some signed swag. My favorite game developers are going to be there! Maybe they need an editor. 🙂

3.) Eat food — I had the best steak of my life last year, so I’m (of course) going to hit that place again. Indianapolis offers a lot of great restaurants. I don’t plan on over-indulging, but I’m definitely going to enjoy my meals.

4.) Play games — Whether for a specific event or just demoing stuff on the floor, I had a blast playing games (I mean, it’s “The Best Four Days in Gaming after all), and I’m going to play a whole bunch of them! What’s a gaming convention without trying new stuff?

5.) Keep up — Last year, I kind of burned out by the last day. I don’t want that to happen this year. I’m going to take some healthy snacks to help keep energy up; I want to do this right. It’s not often that I get to be a dude without kids for a few days, and as much as I love my children, I’m going to savor being without them for a few days.

In the end, I just want me and my pals to have a good time. Gen Con is only two weeks away. John and I will keep you up-to-date on our adventures. I hope to see you there!

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An AoE Grab Bag

You may have noticed that our content sections (Politics & Society for example) have been replaced with column titles. As part of a reformat, we’re moving The Cool Ship to a more author-focused approach to writing, set around a person theme or interest. In my case, I’ve commandeered “Area Of Effect” to tackle the space between politics, social structures, and escapism.

But since there was little in the way of geek related politics (unless you count how FUBAR Black Friday was), this week, I have three other things that deserve some attention. And since it’s my column, I’m going to write about all of them!

Missed Effect, Or Why Halo 4 Is The New Mass Effect

Something about the Halo 4 story (LOL, I know, who cares about the story?!?!) has been sitting weird with me. It was less like combat evolved and more like a reaper invasion.

For all the graphics improvements and combat upgrades (and you do get a lot of both), Master Chief has always been an enhanced dude in a suite of armor fighting aliens. He was never fated to be a Shepard or Neo.

And yet, it’s revealed in Halo 4 that Chief is actually an eventuality built into the human race after it took a beating from the Forerunners the first time it traveled to the stars. That’s right, humans have already been in space. We covered a huge swath of the galaxy until terrible aliens wiped out our civilizations and reset us to the stone age a la KOTOR, Mass Effect, and The Matrix Reloaded.

More than that, we’re destined to assume “the mantle” of what I assume is stewardship of the galaxy… or something. Can’t tell since words like promethium, forerunner, mantle, reclaimer, and on and on and on are thrown around, and I don’t remember a lot of what happened in Halo 3.

What I do recall from the previous game is that there wasn’t a singular, hardass alien villain that’s trying to re-annihilate human civilization by getting a bunch of Macguffins. *Cough Saren * And he has the crazy space armor that everyone, everywhere in Mass Effect wears.

He even narrates your fights with bullshit metaphors and wordy prose that are supposed to sound highbrow and elegant, but make no f****ing sense.

Watch the legendary ending, and listen to the shit he says:

In this hour of victory we taste only defeat. I ask why. We are Forerunners; guardians of all that exists [except humanity, apparently]. The roots of the galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun towards which all intelligence blossoms. 

And on and on he goes. What is he actually saying here? That the forerunners are better than humans even though they lost? That we got tricked and we’ll see in Halo 5? I don’t know, but using a paragraph that says nothing makes you sound dumb. And it’s something reapers did all the time when trash talking Shepard in ME 3.

Cost In Translation

I hate most anime. I used to love it as a teen, but now, I think it’s all awful. And I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until this week. For some reason, I purchased the first Vampire Hunter D novel on my Kindle and read it all in like two days. I recalled being fond of the movies as a teen, but reading a novel translated from Japanese to English makes one realize that some shit just doesn’t come across the language barrier easily.

Instead of trying to describe, I’ve found one of the many passages that made me, literally, roll my eyes while reading.

 The boy galloped off like the spirit of life itself. Doris turned to the still prone D and said, “Thank you. I know it’s the iron law of Hunters that they won’t lift a finger for anything but dealing with their prey. I’d be in a no position to complain no matter how you turned him down. You did it without hurting him… and he loves you like a big brother.”

“But I do refuse.”

“I know. Aside from you job itself, I won’t ask any more of you – what you said to him just now will do fine. I’ll handle my own problems. And the sooner you get your work finished the better.”

“Fine.” Not surprisingly, D’s voice was emotionless and bitterly cold.

Couple things. First, “galloped off like the spirit of life itself?” What the hell? Second, Doris is thanking this vampire hunter for lying to her brother about defending her from the villagers who are going to arrest her. How is that cool? How is it ok to lie to a child’s face about saving his sister?

Also, he’s totally lying about lying because he goes out, without hesitation, like three pages later and defends her from the mob. And he threatens to kill everyone in the village over it in the second act.

Apparently, Dan loves the hunter like a brother… but they met less than 24 hours ago. The dude literally met the kid yesterday afternoon. What is going on? Every page is a litany of awful phrases that could be replaced with a common phrase.

The killing lust in Larmica’s eyes was like a heat ray that flew at Doris’ face. Not to be outdone, Doris met it with a shower of sparks from her own hatred.

Um… what? The guy translating this does know English, right? Do you get these kinds of techniques from the Stephanie Myer school of writing?

And it occurred to me that a lot of this kind of clumsy translating comes across in anime as well. Granted, I also hate that every anime character has to explain their motivations to everyone – even and especially in mid-fight. Sometimes I just want people to do things and work it out for myself.

But the clunky translations are what really kill the genre for me. I think we need to get a place where translators imply cultural equivalents for the ideas and concepts the characters are screaming at each other, while they are hitting power level 1,000,000 or whatever. If J.K. Rowling can change a philosopher’s stone into a sorcerer’s stone for an audience that speaks the language she wrote the book in, can we get some of these translators to take these ideas we have no cultural context for and make them make sense?

Putting the DELETE in CTRL+ALT+DEL

This weekend, a web comic I’ve been reading for six years ended. Author and artist Tim Buckley concluded a near decade of character-driven narrative (interspersed with random gamer jokes and other oddities) with a definitive ending for his protagonist, Ethan, and supporting characters as part of a comic “reboot.”

Read the explanation here.

Mr. Buckley has, at times, been polarizing for his comic’s content, not the least of which included a story arc where Ethan’s wife has a miscarriage. Penny Arcade and others certainly do hate him for his work, but he’s been able to make a career out of a web comic…which is pretty impressive.

I thought it was worth mentioning because I’ve never seen that from a web comic before. And arguably, after 10 years, it was a more conclusive ending than Smallville.

If you can stand reading jokes about the original release of WoW or Half Life 2, I’d suggest going back and reading some of the series.

[[Featured Image from: http://www.zerochan.net/77223  ]]

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The Week in Geek: Sept. 28, 2012

You may have added pumpkin spice to everything you’re eating and drinking, but I’ve got some geeky spice to add to your weekend! (Not my strongest opener,  I’ll grant you. I just got back from the dentist. I’m traumatized; cut me some slack!)

Avengers part 1 by La-Chapeliere-Folle

What if Tim Burton had been given the reigns of The Avengers instead of Joss Whedon? Deviantartist La-Chapeliere-Folle has a pretty good idea. Image courtesy of La-Chapeliere-Folle on DeviantArt.

Edgar Wright screened test footage for his finally confirmed Ant-Man. Thanks to talented Deviantartist Samurai Jack, who storyboarded his recollection of the footage, I can pretend I hopped a plane to San Diego, spent seven hours standing in line for a panel, and then spent two more in a massive room that slowly became filled with fanboy/girl farts. (via Topless Robot)

A Reddit user with the handle “european_douchebag” took a surreptitious photo of a Sikh woman with facial hair and posted it to be mocked. Her dignified, lovely, and forgiving response would have been enough. But then, the internet imploded and the original poster actually wrote a sincere apology. Internet, just when I think I know you, you surprise me. (Thanks to Colleen Carow for the Facebook tip!)

TJ has found a way to make his boredom disappear in a Flash (game)! (Come on, stop groaning! That was moderately clever! No? Alright, then.)

Hope Larson explains why she said, “Yes!” to adapting A Wrinkle in Time. I think the reasoning should be, “They asked me to adapt A Wrinkle in Time. What other answer is there?” (via Huffington Post)

Avengers part 2 by La-Chapeliere-Folle

Loving the Hulk interpretation here. Which is your favorite? Image courtesy of La-Chapeliere-Folle on DeviantArt.

Nerd Approved thinks that this Thor and Loki snuggle blanket is bizarre. I have two alternate synonyms to suggest: “Sold out online” and “Perfect for my living room.” (via The Mary Sue)

You’ll be able to download your tweets before 2013. That’s great because I was getting worried that all my shameless self-promotion on Twitter was just going to be lost forever. (via Geekosystem)

Gabrielle showed us where you can buy fabulous comic-covered kicks; but let’s assume you don’t have cash to burn on these nerdgasmic shoes. The Offbeat Bride has tips on how to make them yourself. (via Offbeat Bride)

Hey, what exactly do you get a search engine for its 14th birthday?

The companion of the Clown Prince of Crime, Harley Quinn, is 20 this year. What better way to remember many women’s (and men’s) favorite felon-ess than with a stunning sculpt…that (ugh) features her Arkham Asylum Juggalette of Death outfit. (via Kotaku)

Rapunzel by La-Chapeliere-Folle

A waifish, innocent blonde pulled into a mysterious world? I’m surprised Tim Burton hasn’t made an interpretation of Rapunzel already! Image courtesy of La-Chapeliere-Folle on DeviantArt.

They’re creepy, kooky, spooky, and all related. Rob runs down his favorite Halloweenie families.

Why were the Nazis obsessed with this Buddhist statue carved from a meteorite? If you have to ask, you’ve clearly never seen an Indiana Jones movie. (via io9)

Mark Millar, the creator of Kick Ass, has signed on to consult Fox on the future of the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises. As much as I loved X-Men: First Class, I’m hoping this means 100 percent more Nic Cage insanity in future installments. (via CBR)

These adorable images prove Dr. Seuss and Star Wars go together like Boba Fett and a sarlacc. (via Neatorama)

Like sands in the hourglass so goes the flow of power in Game of Thrones. Not really, but John’s back with part two of his hella insightful analysis of the series.

A long time ago in a yarn shop far, far away, a motivated crafter bought patterns for these squee-worthy Star Wars ships amigurumi. Then she gave me one just because I’m awesome, and it’s that kind of story. (via Laughing Squid)

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Con Men: GenCon Day 3

I’m just going to get this out there and say it.

If you knew about Gen Con, and you didn’t go, you lose. Plain and simple. You lose.

Know what I did today? I hung out with Green Lantern. I sang my way into battle alongside a warhammer-swinging Paladin. I served with Captain Malcolm Reynolds and a sexy assassin aboard the mighty starship Artemis.
The day started early. John and I got up around 7 o’clock (after about 4 hours of sleep), and headed out to the Con. We walked nearly the entire length of the Indiana Convention Center to get to the JW Marriott hotel, where our first event was being held. Let me say that every gaming session that happens should be in a meeting room of a fancy hotel: comfortable seating, hard candy, ice water, big tables, pens/paper provided.

Anywho, the game was called “Dead End” and was built using Mutants & Masterminds/ DC Adventures. We got the opportunity to play as many of the members of the Justice League, but mostly all the players picked B and C-list heroes. Our team consisted of Green Lantern, Batman (played by John), Dr. Light, Plastic Man, and our only D-list hero, Booster Gold (played by me, because I think he’s hilarious).

The team had their work cut out for them. Lex Luthor, Clayface, Sinestro, Deathstroke, and Gorilla Grod had all teamed up to build a dimensional portal… but our terrible Justice League team managed to fight them and send them to jail… except for that slippery Lex Luthor… he jumped through the portal. On the other side… we found Marvel Zombies.

Hands down a great game. I wish I could remember the DM’s name because he did an amazing job. He was part of North Coast Gamers from Ohio. If you’re reading this, DM, email me. I would love to ask you some questions about your DMing style or just chat. And I will definitely look for your event next year.

Next up came some Pathfinder Society action. This one… was a little disappointing, I have to say. The DM was really, really tired. And we had a really loud, jerky power-gamer incarnate sitting at our table. The guy couldn’t relinquish control of anything.

Other than that awful, harassing person, the other people at the table seemed legitimately cool, and I mostly had a good time. I felt bad for the DM, though. He looked like he needed a nap. I wonder how many games he had to run that day.

Pathfinder Society is a lot of fun. I’m going to be looking for ways to play nearer to home. I’m pretty sure there is a group in Columbus that plays. I need to start leveling up my character!

Next came the movieMisfit Heights.It’s a zombie puppet musical that we went to see because we liked that Vampire Puppet show fromForgetting Sarah Marshall.I don’t consider myself much a film critic… but I was a little disappointed. It’s ultra-low budget, and you can really tell. The picture was OFTEN too dark to see. The singing wasn’t really great. The sound editing seemed a little off. It also seemed a little overly long. However, I did laugh out loud more than a few times, so I suppose it was certainly worth seeing. And it was free, so the price was hard to beat.

Finally, the highlight of my day. Artemis, a starship bridge simulator. I’m going to try my best to adequately describe to you how amazing I think this game is.

How it works: Artemis is basically a program that runs using a LAN or internet connection. 6 displays are linked together, and each display represents a different station on a starship: Helm, Tactical (John got to shoot the bad guys), Communications, Science, Engineering (this was my specialty for the evening), and the Captain.

The Captain has the job of overseeing all the stations and giving orders. He’s the macro-organizer of the ship, and you mostly have to depend on him to organize all the stations to work together. The guy who volunteered to be our Captain was pretty amazing. He seriously took to it instantly, and by the end, we were all calling him “sir” or “captain.” Pretty impressive.

The Helm steers the ship by controlling the maneuvering engines, the impulse engines, and the warp engines. Our Helmsman started off a little shaky, but by the end was controlling the ship like a pro.

The Comm officer monitors communications throughout the star system and relays them to the Captain. Our comm officer was played by a cosplayer dressed as Malcolm Reynolds. It was weird to have the Browncoat hero sitting in the comm, but he did a great job. Comm officers are also able to get enemies to surrender and can also taunt the baddies into attacking us rather than one of our allied ships or space stations.

The Science Officer is responsible for keeping tabs on approaching ships and scanning the many anomalies in the darkness of space. Our Science Officer was played by the girl hanging out with Malcolm Reynolds (wife, girlfriend?) who was dressed as a sexy assassin. She did a good job keeping tabs on the bad guys.

The Tactical Officer is responsible for shooting bad guys and defending the starship. John was our guy, and he was the king of setting off nukes in such a way as to kill 3-5 ships in one fell swoop. After learning how to manually control the lasers, he basically became the boss of killing bad guys. Seriously.

Represent.

Finally, my part the Engineer. I was the guy responsible for shunting power into various systems, making sure those same systems don’t overheat, and sending engineering teams to fix any damage to the ship. I don’t want to toot my own horn too much, but I think I did a pretty excellent job of Scotty-ing (I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!!) my way through the game. By the end, I was a master of repairing shield damage and shunting enough power into John’s lasers to cut enemy warships into ribbons.

Basically, everyone should play Artemis. Now, I’m trying to figure out how to turn my shed into a starship bridge. I was so impressed with the game, I’m even considering getting an Engineer’s badge to show off my love for both the good ship Artemis and the lonely Engineering station.

After that, we headed to BW3s for some chicken wings, and we got to watch this woman at the bar have a terrible date.

All-in all, a pretty awesome day at the con.

Editor’s Note: John ended up remembering the DM’s name.

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Gen Con Adventures: GenCon Day 1

None of this bad stuff would have happened if Peyton was still here.

Well, today has been… pretty weird/terrible.

It started out pretty well. I was packed and out the door by 6 AM. John and I were on the road and discussing life, politics, etc.

Finally, after what seemed like an extremely short drive, we were in Indianapolis. Gen Con was just within my reach. All the games were going to be played.

But I suddenly realized that I forgot the tickets. They were sitting on top of my microwave in my kitchen in my house. I called my wife, John and I turned around, and away we went. We met at an A&W somewhere between Albany, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana. We decided to have lunch at said A&W, and the service was absolutely atrocious. The food wasn’t spectacular either, but John declared that the root beer was delicious.

Back to Indy we went. All the games were before us. Nothing could stop us.

Except the insane amount of road construction. We literally spent nearly an hour and a half within sight of our hotel… but we couldn’t get to it. A bridge was out for road construction… and there were no signs for a detour. An insane amount of driving ensued, but we got checked in. The room is really nice!

So, off to the convention center we went! All the games were again before us. But…

John couldn’t get his press badge. I actually watched as the press coordinators left the room, but I was too far away to do anything about it or say anything to them.  John thought about buying a day pass… but at $50, it was a little too steep a price to pay.

So, I played some Pathfinder… Which was fun. But, John went back to hotel and slept.

A super late dinner at Scotty’s Brewhouse after that, and now I’m writing this piece; I can barely keep my eyes open. So I’m going to sign off. Hopefully, things are better tomorrow.

 

 

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Gen Con Coverage!

John and I are going to the most magical place on Earth.  Not Disney World.

GEN CON!!!!

And we are going to play ALL THE GAMES!*

(*Editor’s note: We’ll be playing a lot of games… not all of them.)

So every day we’ll give you coverage of what we did, who we talked to, what swag we got, and other awesome things. Maybe a cosplay gallery? We’ll do what we can. We want to party with Wil Wheaton, but we’ll settle for partying with Nichelle Nichols.

So keep it your interwebz tuned to The Cool Ship (because we all still “tune” things, right?).

And if you happen to be at Gen Con, come say hello.

 

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