Bioshock: Infinite

Well folks, we’ve made it. I’m beginning my trek into the sky-city of Columbia, and finally completing the last Bioshock game. The first two games were pretty good in their own right, but I’ve heard this can arguably be considered the best entry. I will save my judgement until I’ve completed the trilogy, but I can already tell you that this entry is right up my alley. The graphics are excellent on Ultra, the animations smooth, and the gore is on point. The themes I’m seeing at this point are painting the city and its inhabitants in a negative light, but I concur with some of the underlying social commentary. I do remember playing this game briefly when it was offered as a Playstation Plus title, so I knew a little of what to expect, yet it feels like that was long ago. The imagery brings some of those memories back and I do recall commenting on it a bit way back when, but having it fresh in my mind means I can properly analyze it. Two things stick out as subtext – Racism and Fanatical Religion suck —  yet they seem to go hand in hand.

In our alternate reality, Abraham Lincoln was viewed as a devil and John Wilkes Booth a hero. The founder of the city is revered as a God, and the people devote followers, despite the clear message that other races are inferior. The city of Columbia ascended into the clouds so they could take their religious bigotry with them. Or so it seems. Bioshock has a way of painting you the bad guy, despite the evil that other men do. Perhaps there will be some incident that will come to light and make our hero seem like a tool. Time will tell, but for now I’m intrigued to learn more about Columbia and its inhabitants.

It is curious, that the game starts out much like its predecessors. Coming to a lighthouse (or the game ending there) has become something of a signature plot device for the series, and though this one starts out similarly, instead of sinking down into the ocean this time you are propelled into the sky. Very creative world-building to say the least. It’s a shame it’s been 5 years since we’ve seen another entry, or another series that comes even close to it. But I digress. I wanted to share some screenshots with you for now, and I will return once I’ve completed the game.

Here’s my journey so far, in picture form:

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TWR: Looking ahead to Rivals of Ixalan

In just a couple of weeks a new Magic set will be upon us! Rivals of Ixalan is the 2nd set in the Ixalan block, which like it’s predecessors will continue with themes built upon when we first visited the plane, but also adds some new mechanics. We’ll still be focused on the Dinosaur, Pirate, Vampire and Merfolk tribes; there will still be flip cards, enrage/explore/raid, but also new mechanics like Ascend, which adds benefits to certain cards when its controller controls ten or more permanents. Rivals of Ixalan releases on January 19th, though I find it unlikely that I will be attending the pre-release this time around. However, the full set has been spoiled and I wanted to take some time to look at some of the cards I’m most anticipating, both to finally build some EDH decks around these tribes, but also cards that will be useful in other decks I’m building or have already created. Magic is constantly evolving, and I love seeing these new cards and finding interesting ways to use them! Let’s get started:

Multi-Color:

The largest chunk of cards I’m interested in are multi-colored. This tends to be the case with many sets due to the fact that most of the time multi-colored cards are better than mono-colored, but also the Planeswalkers and Legendary creatures tend to be multi as well. Here we see the two new Planeswalkers added in Ixalan in new forms, though Angrath is still in the same color pool, while Huatli is now G/W instead of R/W though he’ll still slot right into those Naya (R/W/G) decks. I was purposely holding off to finish my Dinosaur EDH deck for this set to release because I knew more dinosaur cards and support cards were coming, so after I collect these cards I’ll have a better deck for it. Many people were hoping for a 5-color Legendary dinosaur, but I’m glad they stayed with the Naya theme because I think Gishath is still a better option than Zacama, though I’m definitely still slotting the elder dino into the 99. They also threw in some Vampire and Merfolk love in the form of two more cheap lords, so the Simic (G/B) deck I’m building is getting some love, and I’ll be able to slot a few more cards into my Edgar Markov deck. Azor is going into the sphinx deck I’m building, and the lone flip card I’m really interested should slot nicely into my Cleric deck. Overall there’s some decent additions here.

White:

An elder dino, a vampire tutor on the cheap, damage prevention and exile in white. This is almost all dino deck related but some powerful utility, and that tutor is sweet for Edgar.

Blue:

Another elder dino that can’t be used in my EDH deck. I feel like Nezahal is a shoo-in for a new deck, and mono-blue is something I have yet to do. Will have to put some more thought into that one. Otherwise we have some new merfolk (I didn’t include them all here, but they were mostly basic) an enchantment that is a group hug until you get the city’s blessing, and a tricky pirate that I’m thinking will go well into my Kess deck for the extra turn synergy.

Black:

Surprisingly little black I’m really stoked for, but black wasn’t really hitting for me on this plane. I do like the trickery on this Aura and will be throwing it into Taigam because it’s on theme. The Chupacabra is a smaller and cheaper Noxious Gearhulk, which I think would be nice in Marchesa with her recursion abilities. Finally, the Twilight Prophet has a really nice extort ability if you have the city’s blessing, and it’s fairly easy to produce ten permanents in a vampire deck.

Red:

A different version of the Blood Moon, the Blood Sun gimps certain lands but doesn’t make the non-basics into moutains like its brother. I think that for added redundancy, I’m throwing the pair together in my Goblin deck. Otherwise we have a bunch of dinos that have various abilities that synergize pretty well, and a cheap dino tutor that mirrors the others in the set. The Forerunners are a nice addition, each of these four tribes getting their own tutor in colors that don’t always have the luxury.

Green:

Green is also dinosaur heavy, but there are a few good merfolk to boot. I like the color-shifted tribes, it makes building my Simic merfolk deck possible. World Shaper is neat because it mills you but then when it dies you get a big mana influx. The Ranger is also pretty neat because it explores twice, which can ramp or get you card draw, both of which are important in those colors. I think the Polyraptor can be busted, and I’m looking into the best way to do so.

Colorless:

Only a couple of artifacts really interested me, mainly The Immortal Sun, which totally fucks over Planeswalkers (Superfriends decks beware!) and I’ll be putting that in my Oloro Pillowfort build. It’s good all around because you get extra card draw, cheaper spells and +1/+1 to all of your creatures, so it literally could go into any deck that doesn’t use Planeswalkers even if you won’t be fighting them. The Silent Gravestone is a nice bit of graveyard hate that can go nearly anywhere as well, unless you are focusing your energies on the graveyard then you should probably avoid it.

Overall I’m really looking forward to the set and finishing off some of my works in progress!

Video Games as Card Games

Over the holidays I spent much of my time unplugged. There were visits with family, celebrations of the season, and of course games of Magic to be played. There were a couple of card games that I thought would be interesting that we picked up mainly to play with my girlfriend and her son, another of which I picked up quite some time ago with the same idea in mind. Two of the games were wrapped as Christmas gifts for him, but I secretly wanted to play them just as bad!

My girlfriend and I decided to try a couple of these games out on New Year’s Eve, mainly to learn how to play them and so that she could gauge what his level of interest might be. He’s about to turn 10 years old so there are some games that might be a bit above his level of understanding or beyond his attention span. The main theme of the games that we picked out were that they embraced video game themes or were straight up conversions of old video games into card game form.

We started the evening with The Oregon Trail.

This one was right up my alley. I remembered playing the shit out this back on Apple computers in the “Computer Lab” in elementary school. She remembers playing it too, so despite having differing memories of the game, we were both intrigued to see how this would turn out. The game consists of cards, a die and an erasable board w/ pen. You’ll write out the names of your party, and there’s even tombstones of the otherside for when they die, and they WILL die. What set this game apart from the others is that it is actually a co-op experience, all the members of your party are working together to survive the Oregon Trail, just like in the video game. You’ll draw some trail cards and supply cards, and the game starts. You’ll have to match up trail cards that butt up against the starting city, and if you don’t have a trail card that will match up, you have to draw from the pile and skip your turn. Some trail cards are blank and simply serve to extend the trail, while others force you to roll a die to ford a river or draw a calamity card which typically means bad things are about to happen. Once you get 5 trail cards extended from the starting city, you’ll stack them and start on a new stack of 5. You have to do this a total of 10 times to reach Oregon. The calamity cards bring on diseases, kill off your oxen or poison your water, most of which can be cured or resolved using the supply cards. You’ll also occasionally draw a Fort or Town card and can then restock on your supplies, but typically you’re running out of them or losing them left and right, and sometimes you’ll pull a snake bite card and have an instant death. It was fun but without multiple players you’re probably not making it to Oregon. We managed to be on our 6th stack of 5 before dying, and that was the furthest we made it.

The other game we tried out, is called Boss Monster.

This one reminds me of Munchkin, another game I had played in the past (and finally got my own copy of over Christmas!). It’s also something like Dungeon Keeper, but uses old school 8-bit flavored art. Even the cover of the box reminds me of old Nintendo boxes, and the nostalgia factor is probably why I picked this one out in the first place. Basically you start off by randomly picking a boss monster which represents you. Then you’ll draw some room cards and some spell cards. The room cards represent your dungeon, and there are a number of phases for each round. First, you’ll build. Everyone picks a room and places it face down next to their boss monster. Everyone then reveals their room at the same time, and heroes spawn in town (which is just the center of the table). The heroes are baited to players dungeons based on symbols on the card. Whoever has the most of that symbol represented on their room cards (that are in play) will bait the hero into their dungeon. Each hero has a set amount of life and each room does a certain amount of damage to the hero as they pass through it. If they die on the way to the boss monster, you collect their soul. If they make it to the boss monster, you take a wound. Various effects can change what happens, and these effects are printed on the room cards (i.e. if a hero dies in this room, heal a wound). You can also cast spells to affect the game, though they can only be played during certain phases. You’re trying to win the game by collecting 10 hero’s souls, and avoid taking 5 wounds. Later after the standard heroes are all played through, epic heroes start spawning, and they are worth two souls each but definitely harder to take down. Overall I think it was a fun experience but my lady-love wasn’t as fond of it.

There was another game called the Super Mario Power Up Card Game that we bought as well, and it seems interesting but required a minimum of 3 players so we haven’t checked it out just yet. Overall I think this was a nice diversion from typical gaming and I’d recommend trying these titles out if you’re looking for a similar diversion!

By The Numbers: The Playoffs and Beyond

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So I totally spaced writing this column last week, mainly because my team was already eliminated from the playoffs, and my apathy for the game has taken over. I was also on vacation, so I couldn’t be bothered with blogging while I unplugged for a spell. The Packers ended up losing that game as well, ending the season 7-9, and that feels bad, man. I had planned on totaling up my ratios on picks throughout the season, but since I only started tallying up my picks a few weeks into the season, I can’t be assed to figure out those weeks that I missed. As such, I’m going to leave you with this, for the year: My picks through the playoffs and Super Bowl. We’ll revisit next season and see how I did.

Before I make said picks, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on some recent news tidbits surrounding my team. Firstly, Dom Capers, the defensive coordinator for the past 8 years has been terminated. I think this might be a step in the right direction as far as making our defense something better. It’s something we’ve sorely lacked for a number of years, and the sole time while Dom was at the helm that we finished in the top 10 overall, we won the Super bowl. Go figure. Also, Ted Thompson has been shuffled about and is no longer the GM, and that could mean good things coming down the line as well. We still have one of the best QB’s in the league, and we still have a great coach. There are undervalued stars on this team that either need better coaching, or we’ll find better value with our higher draft picks for next season. I look forward to these changes and hope they bring us back around to where we’re supposed to be. Sometimes, change is good. So let’s make these picks and move on, shall we?

Wildcard Round:

Jaguars 30, Bills 24
Chiefs 24, Titans 17
Rams 35, Falcons 27
Saints 28, Panthers 17

Divisional Round:

Patriots 27, Chiefs 20
Jags 24, Steelers 20
Rams 30, Eagles 24
Saints 35, Vikings 31

Championship:

Jags 21, Patriots 13
Rams 24, Saints 20

SuperBowl:

Jags 23, Rams 16

Yeah, fuck the Patriots, time for someone else to win in the AFC.

So Long, 2017

It has been a wonderful vacation and I am feeling rejuvenated! Unfortunately, just like this year, it is coming to an end. I hope that you all enjoyed your 2017 and I hope that 2018 will be even better. I’m going to get back to relaxing, but I’ll just leave these here before I go:

Happy New Year!