Entries in Scott Samson (9)
It certainly doesn't hurt that I have met Matt Kindt on several occasions and have always found him to be pleasant if not outright charming. It also doesn't hurt that I have read many of his previous works and have always found them engaging and entertaining. And if this were a lesser book I could imagine my past experiences coloring the way I talk about the book.
But Mind MGMT is not a lesser book.
It is a spectacular book.
The art is fluid and accessible, though some super-hero purists may not find it to their liking, but I would challenge them to read the book nonetheless as even though it may not be to their crisp-line-heavily-photo-referenced tastes it achieves a great story telling pace and suits the narrative quite nicely. The pacing is whip-smart and the characters are, at first blush (which is all you can really get from a first issue), human and complex.
The thing about this book that I really think people are going to get attached to quite quickly is the secret nuggets hidden within the book and information that is peppered throughout in ways that many writers wouldn't think to include. Wrapping the frame of each page is, what appears, to be content instructions, such as "When filing report all essential details must fall within the solid "live area" box. This is the border for a standard, non-bleed field report", but if you read them on each page you get additional content, you get insight into the world in which the book lives. It's a brilliant and subtle way of executing such an easter egg, which other creators have done to differing levels of success in the past (Jeph Loeb and Chris Bachalo in the pages of The Witching Hour, Joe Casey and Giuseppe Camuncoli in the pages of The Intimates, as well as Kindt in the pages of his most recent graphic novel Revolver), and this is definitely the kind of thing that I can imagine having to go back and re-read after having finished an issue and realizing that I had forgotten to read the gutter content since I was so taken by the pages of the actual issue.
Which is exactly what Kindt wants. He admits in the back matter of the first issue that he has been a "trade waiter" for a while now and that when he was given the opportunity to work on a monthly comic that he wanted to make sure that it was the kind of comic that he would want to buy. And I hope he achieved it for himself, I know he achieved it for me. The hidden pieces from the frame, the short story on the front and back inside covers, the short story at the end of the issue ... all add up to the kind of release that gets me excited to read. Most of the comics that I think make the most of the single issue format are like that. The releases from Brubaker and Phillips that include both a bit of journaling from the creators and an essay from one of their friends. The kind of letters pages that you can only get from The Walking Dead, Invincible, Powers, and Savage Dragon. The additional content provided by Richard Starkings in the pages of Elephantmen (also out this week!). And he lets you know that the extra content in each issue will be exclusive to the single issues. To reward the people who are willing to come out to shops and get the issues.
I say all of this and I haven't told you a single thing about the book. And I feel like I could get away with not telling you anything and based solely on the passion with which I speak that you should go check it out.
But I won't.
The book is about a young woman, who is a true crime novelist, trying to uncover the truth, despite the desires of her publisher, behind a mysterious commercial airline flight, during which all the passengers were suddenly and simultaneously struck with amnesia. As the rest of the story unfolds we see shady characters in the background and hear heart breaking stories of the people whose lives were ruined by their having been on the flight. People who no longer recognize their spouses or children. And yet the story presses on (I hope that as the story weaves that we might see more of what happened to the passengers in the additional content supplied in each issue). It's clear that in one instance we are in for a ride of breakneck proportions but that there will be the chance to have side moments and more of the history of the story unfold in the aforementioned extra content. And I have to say that I look forward to reading the next issue. But even moreso that I look forward to re-reading the first issue. And to talking with other people about the issues as they release. The way that I used to talk about episodes of LOST with friends and co-workers. The way that I talk about issues of Morning Glories with my employees. And I look forward to hearing ideas and theories that others put forth that make me want to go back and give each issue a 3rd and 4th reading. And I hope you'll come along on the journey with me.
It's been a while since I have played a game that I just plain didn't like. Unfortunately this happened last night, and perhaps even more surprising it was a game from Steve Jackson Games ... that involved Cthulhu. I'm as big a fan of Cthulhu as the next raving lunatic and I normally glom onto the goings on of the Elder One himself. But this game is just plain bad. It's far too simple and seems to rejoice in that simplicity but aside from use as a quick game that determines which player goes first in another game I can't see how the game is really even worth it's low, low $4.99 price tag.
The game plays quite quickly with each player having three sanity tokens and the final player with remaining sanity wins the game. Each round a player picks a "victim" and rolls the die against them and will affect their sanity in a few different ways and then the victim attacks the predator and the die passes to the predator's left. The game is just not in any way complex and really falls flat in both it's concept and it's presentation. The game contains one twelve-sided die, about 18 or so green glass counters so that you can play with 6 players, and a rules pamphlet; and that's all. I really have enjoyed a great deal of the games that I have played recently from Steve Jackson Games, namely among them Chez Cthulhu, but this is really just a sub par performance.
I could even be more petty and say that the name is misleading as it only contains one die, and thus should be called Cthulhu Die but I can see where that would be a bit of a strange name when it gets down to brass tacks.
It came time to review another game for our monthly product meetings and there just happened to be a new game on the shelves that had caught my attention from a publisher of which I have always been fond. Atlas Games has a really good track record of great games in the the Board Game [Seismic] and Role Playing Game [Feng Shui & Nyambe] varieties, but their major releases have almost always been in the card game field, games like Lunch Money, Let's Kill, Gloom, Dungeoneer, Once Upon a Time, as well as others. And their most recent release is another in a long line of really fun games that can make for a really great experience for casual gaming situations and party scenarios. The game only plays up to 4 players which I see as the only real stumbling block from it becoming the kind of game that Lunch Money has become.
Ren Faire is a game by first time designer Michelle Nephew and she approaches mechanics and fun like a seasoned pro. The game is quite simple but yet really fun as it combines the kind of silliness that one has come to expect from an Atlas Game but at the same time has a sort of system of gratification as you accumulate parts of your costume. The premise of the game is that you want to be the first to have a complete costume (though it need not look good together or even make any sense). The best way to get pieces for your costume is to earn cash and the only way to do that is to complete silly little tasks that vary from flipping cards to belly dancing to jumping up and down for a few turns or even speaking in a particular accent for a while.
The game has an instant beer and pretzel appeal, which these days means that it has a great deal of replay value (because who wants to break out a new game when you've already got one out and have already played a round of it). I think that the game is probably the most fun with 3-4 players because it makes some of the tasks more daunting in someways and more entertaining in others.
This is the perfect kind of game to get your SCA (Society of Creative Anachronisms) friends to gather round the table and in no time they'll be shouting "Long Live the Queen!"
The guys and gals behind Flying Frog's Last Night on Earth have had a bonafied hit on their hands ever since the game hit the shelves. The game was one of the fastest sell-outs in recent memory and was one of the most impressive first efforts from any young gaming company in the history of the game renaissance. Many people may be wondering what the fuss is all about and maybe even some of them with good reason. The game might seem a whole lot like other Zombie Apocalypse games on the market but it is most assuredly different and in a whole lot of fun ways. The game accommodates up to 6 players and is played in a team situation. In the 6 player game 4 players play as survivors trying to accomplish a series of goals in a limited number of turns and the other 2 players play as the zombie hordes (in smaller games there is only one player representing the zombie hordes). The game is a combination of character abilities that differentiate the survivors, equipment that can be acquired from searching buildings, and action or event cards that the characters also acquire by searching the buildings. The zombie players have a never ending supply of zombies and a smaller hand of "Zombie Event" cards that are refilled every turn on their side.
The real charm of the game is the kind of open competition going on between the survivor players and the zombie player(s), the special camaraderie that develops between the survivor players, and the overall uniqueness of the scenarios that the game provides. In the basic box there are 5 different scenarios (Defend the Manor House, Die Zombies, Die, Save the Townsfolk, Burn 'Em Out, and Escape in the Truck) and each one provides a different kind of experience for both the heroes and the zombies. As well the whole board is modular creating a different feel for each game as the buildings that surround the center of town (or the manor house) change with each variation. The benefit of this game as well is the overall production quality. For your $49.95 you're getting some really incredible components, great cardstock for the cards great cardboard for the board pieces as well as really good looking miniatures round out an incredible product from a small company that has everyone noticing.
In addition to the dynamic base game there is also the Growing Hunger expansion that adds more cards to the variety as well as additional scenarios. On the horizon for Flying Frog is also the Hero Pack 1 which will add more characters into the mix for the survivor team as well as a few new cards oriented toward these characters and an additional scenario. Another expansion growing ever nearer is Survival of the Fittest expansion which will add more scenarios as well as three new decks of cards to the game: Unique Items (which will add new items for the survivors to utilize), Survival Tactics (tactical decisions that are made by the characters to better aid their survival through the night), and Grave Weapons (weapons for the zombies as they rise from the dead). Also there are additional scenarios available through the Flying Frog Games website. All in all I think this is the kind of game that can bring seasoned gamers a great deal of tactical entertainment and bring new gamers to the table with great looking pieces and really fun mechanics.