3 Lists of 3 Tabletop Game Designers

Uncle Geekly here. We’ve covered tabletop games more than once on 3 Lists of 3, but it may be time to discuss the people behind the games. I smell a few lists of game designers.

Think of these game designers as authors of books and many tabletop game enthusiasts follow them as if they were authors releasing their latest novel, so the following 3 lists may be a good place to start if you’re looking for a designer or two to follow. Let’s get to them.

Designers Who Seldom make the Same Game Twice

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Friedemann Friese

504 may not have landed with fans as well as Friese had hoped, but a game system that has 504 possible combinations of games is a testament to this designer’s versatility. Funkenschlag or Power Grid is an electrifying network building game–pun intended–that may have led to the more streamlined and widespread Ticket to Ride. Friday takes the deck building genre and turns in a story-driven solo experience. I love how the cards you use in the deck can get shuffled back in and have a different effect later in the game. I don’t know how many times I’d eat something that would eventually give me diarrhea. Your uncle Geekly has a weak stomach, so that’s almost like real life.

Fauna and Terra are some of the better takes on trivia games. I don’t care for trivia games as much as I used to—Trivial Pursuit may have ruined me on the genre—but I’ll gladly play either of these two games. Fabled Fruit is a simplified worker placement, legacy game, and that’s an accomplishment. I haven’t heard of too many worker placement games one could explain in under fifteen minutes, let only one that includes a legacy component. Friese is on fire. If his hair is any indication, it’s green fire.

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Antoine Bauza

We go from a German to a Frenchman. Antoine Bauza may use a similar aesthetic in his game’s artwork and their themes (strong Japanese influences), but his games have no shortage of story, mechanisms, and scope. Ghost Stories and Samurai Spirit are both cooperative games, but one pits Shaolin Monks against nightmare fuel, while the other, despite some balance issues, is a faithful recreation of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. If you’ve never seen the film, it doesn’t end well for the samurai. It also doesn’t usually end well for players of Samurai Spirit.

Bauza’s most celebrated works—the ones that have received the most awards—are card games: Hanabi and 7 Wonders. Hanabi is an interesting 50-card, cooperative game where players can see others’ cards, but not their own. 7 Wonders and its excellent spin-off 7 Wonders Duel popularized card drafting. I’d place Duel slightly ahead of base 7 Wonders because of its use of a pyramid set-up and speed of play, but I couldn’t deny the appeal of 7 Wonders. Grumpy Uncle Geekly wanted to dislike it but didn’t.

There are just too many game types from Bauza: Takenoko (a deceptively strategic game about a Chibi panda eating bamboo), Tokaido (a gorgeous timeline game about a Japanese vacation), and Rampage (like it’s video game namesake, players destroy a city with wooden monsters).

I could’ve gone with several other French game designers here too. Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc are not only frequent co-designers of Bauza’s, they too seldom use the same mechanism twice.

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Eric M. Lang

If you noticed trends with Bauza’s games, you’ll see some form with Canada’s favorite game designer Eric Lang. But Lang delivers the goods and his games are eclectic. I’m a huge Lang fan-boy. I see his name on a game and I’m already interested.

Miniatures? Yeah, he’s made some of those games. Anything from Cool Mini or Not (CMON games) is a safe bet: Blood Rage (half strategy Euro, half kickass Vikings), Arcadia Quest (Chibi fantasy dungeon dive), The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire (yeah, it’s a mafia game), and Rising Sun (the second game of the Blood Rage trilogy).

Card games? Yes. He has plenty of those too: Star Wars: The Card Game (this is a great living card game update to the earlier collectible one), Warhammer: Invasion (another living card game update), A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (Same), and Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game (yeah, he does a ton of  these, but he’s great at them).

Dice games? Lang has made some of my favorite dice games. Quarriors! introduced dice to the deck building mechanism. Dice Masters added a collectible layer to Quarriors!, creating the first successful dice collection game that has since been mimicked. Yeah, I’d play a new version of Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly if it had Eric Lang’s name on it.

Designers Who Tend to make the Same Game

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Matt Leacock

This may be sacrilege. I can hear boos from my computer screen, but just because a designer makes a lot of similar games doesn’t mean that they’re poor game designers. I started with Matt Leacock because he’s such a great designer—one of my favorites—but he tends to make a lot of cooperative games. If there was a gaming dictionary, you’d see his face beside the word cooperative.

Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy (seasons 1 and 2), Pandemic: The Cure, Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, Forbidden Sky, and Thunderbirds: the Co-operative Board Game are all cooperative games. I think it’s safe to say that Leacock has a type.

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Uwe Rosenberg

Rosenberg’s career is split by two games: Agricola and Patchwork. Prior to Agricola, Rosenberg experimented with various game types, but after Agricola, he made mostly worker placement games with brutal feed your workers mechanisms. What is with feeding workers? There must be some designers who went hungry one time too many.

Le Havre, and Caverna were—admittedly better—variations of Agricola. Then, Rosenberg released Patchwork (a game that added Tetris-style mechanisms to board games). A Feast for Odin combined elements of Agricola with Patchwork, and future Rosenberg games began taking Patchwork in different directions.

Rosenberg’s games are usually good to excellent, but sometimes, I have the urge to report them to the department of redundancy department.

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Stefan Feld

If Leacock’s picture would be next to cooperative, Stefan Feld’s picture would be next to point salad. A point salad game is one that’s heavy on strategy, there are various methods of playing and each method yields points, and the player at the end of the game who has the most points, wins. The reason it’s called a point salad is that players can—and often should—choose multiple methods of play and the resulting points to win. It’s like a big, crunchy, board game salad. You know you’re doing well when you’re eating all the game’s roughage.

Feld is the king of balance. I’m not sure if I’ve played a single game of his that wasn’t balanced and that’s fantastic, but you don’t even need to see the box or know much about the game to tell when a game is designed by Feld.

Up and Coming Designers

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Isaac Childres

The designer of the current number one rated game on boardgamegeek (BGG) Gloomhaven must be on any list of newer game designers. Childres has released a handful of games prior to the dungeon crawl, but no game before or since has been as large in scope as Gloomhaven.

While I’ve heard mixed reviews surrounding Founders of Gloomhaven (a Euro strategy game based in the world of Gloomhaven), I have no doubt Childres will have plenty of other great projects in the future.

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Callin Flores

Callin Flores’s path to board game design is an odd one. He began as a podcast creator for Plaid Hat Games and slowly became a designer in his own right. Plaid Hat has some of the best designers in the business, so Flores had plenty of guidance for his new release Guardians. I haven’t had the chance to play Guardians, but it looks as if it’ll be another hit for the company.

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Ludovic Roudy

The only game that comes close to Gloomhaven’s scope, may be Ludovic Roudy’s 7th Continent. This game puts players in the role of shipwreck survivors, stranded on a deserted island. It’s a character and story driven game that has a unique brand of exploration. I can’t wait to see what’s next from Roudy.

Who are your favorite new game designers? Who are the best designers that have a preferred game type or choose more eclectic mechanisms? Let us know in the comments.

3 Lists of 3 Video Game Characters

Some video game characters get all the love. Some don’t get enough. Your uncle Geekly wants to even things out a bit with this week’s three list of three. I could also use some costume ideas so don’t be surprised if you see me dressed in a primary color jump suit—or two.

Underrated Video Game Characters

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Zelda

Yes. A famous video game series shares her name, but how many people have you seen point to the guy dressed in a green elf costume and say Zelda? That’s Link. Link gets all the attention, but he’s also the more static of the two characters.

Zelda has been portrayed in so many ways. She even gets in on the action as her alter egos Sheik and Tetra every once and while. She’s been the leader of sages and even a goddess. Link rocks the same kind of outfit game after game, but gamers don’t know what they’re going to get with Zelda. She may even be a ghost.

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Ness

Many gamers would consider EarthBound (1994) or Mother 2 in Japan as one of the best RPGs to come out for the SNES, but many more of them don’t remember who the main character of the game was. Ness is a 13-year-old boy with psychic powers.

Sure, there are other characters gained along the way in EarthBound, but Ness is the players first and strongest, and a lot of the game’s character comes from Ness.

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Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik

Most gamers know of Mario’s Bowzer, but Sonic’s Dr. Eggman goes unheralded. It’s a shame. He may come off as a mad scientist clone, and he is for the most part, but Eggman wants to conquer the world, so he can install his ultimate utopia, the Eggman Empire.

A lot of other mad scientist types have had a similar motivation of wanting to rule the world because they’re the best person for the job—Doctor Doom comes to mind—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good motivation. What’s Bowzer trying to do most of the time besides kidnapping a princess?

Overrated Video Game Characters

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Master Chief

First off, Master Chief isn’t a Master Chief in the navy. That’s an enlisted rank (a very high enlisted rank), not an officer’s.

Second, you can take Master Chief out of Halo and no one would miss him. He may as well be Jeff Johnson or John Jeffson. My apologies to any Jeff Johnsons or John Jeffsons who may be reading this.

Halo’s multiplayer mode is what most gamers play this game for. They aren’t looking for story, and Master Chief isn’t much of a character.

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Gordon Freeman

The whole point of Half-Life 2’s protagonist is that he’s a blank slate, but if he’s a blank slate, only defined by the suit he wears, he isn’t much of a character. He’s kind of like Master Chief in that sense. Cool suit. Great abilities. What’s your name again?

Iron Man detractors claim that Tony Stark wouldn’t be anything without his suit, but he’d still be rich, a genius, and have plenty of personality. Gordon Freeman is none of those things.

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Kratos

2018’s God of War notwithstanding, Kratos was a bloody He-Man for the modern era. Gamers knew he’d lost his family—which was explained more in the most recent God of War—and that’s most of what they knew about him. Kratos was an excuse for a muscle-bound, over-sexed man to tear apart some Greek gods.

He received the post-hero treatment in 2018’s God of War and while it was a refreshing take on the character, it could’ve carried more weight if there was more to the character prior to that offering.

Video Game Sidekicks

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Garrus

Yeah, this turian may take offense with being called a sidekick, but he deserves to be on this list. He’s the only squad member available to Shepard in each Mass Effect game, he survives a rocket to the face, and he and Shepard have a special bond.

Get your head out of the gutter. Hmm. They could have a “special bond” if you play the game a certain way, come to think of it. Anyway, one of the most satisfying moments in the Mass Effect series is watching the two pal around and watching their relationship grow.

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Luigi

He’s always number two to Mario’s top banana, but Luigi doesn’t complain, not even when Nintendo named him Luigi Mario. I guess that would make his brother Mario Mario. Man, that’s a terrible name.

Give him a vacuum to suck up ghosts and he can be a main character. A gamer may want to play as him in Super Mario Bros. 2, and I never minded letting my younger brother take the controller during the original Super Mario Bros., not telling him where any of the shortcuts or secrets were, and then use them after he lost a man. Ah, memories.

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Sparx

I had to put Sparx from Spryo the Dragon on here because so many of my family members love that game, and Sparx doesn’t get much love. I also don’t like it when games force a player to run over every little gem or coin or ring. All you’ve gotta do is get close to a gem, and Sparx picks it up for you.

Sparx also represents one of the cleverest ways to denote health in a video game. He changes color, gets dim, as you take damage and disappears when Spyro has one hit point left.

Yep. I’m sure I missed the boat on a lot of these characters. Please direct your complaints to our intern Jeff Johnson—or is it John Jeffson—or let me know which video game characters you’d choose by leaving a comment.

3 Lists of 3 Star Trek: The Original Series

Jim handed me two Star Trek 3 Lists of 3 last month and somehow your uncle Geekly only posted one of them. My bad. I don’t have a whip on hand, so I may have to flagellate myself with my back scratcher.

Thanks for the Trek article, Standard Issue Star Trek Geek Jim.

In my last Star Trek article, I listed The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine ahead of The Original Series. Lest some of our readers take that as a knock on The Original Series, I want now to give credit where it’s due and explore some of what makes TOS special.

Things to Love about Star Trek: The Original Series

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Optimism

Each Star Trek series reflects its time in a certain way. Now, with everything happening in our twenty-four-hour-news world, it seems the product of that is post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. In the 1960s, we faces race riots, the Vietnam War, and the threat of mutually assured destruction with the USSR. Somehow, Star Trek managed to imagine a future that had taken all of that and persevered onto better things. I know, in Trek canon, there is an apocalyptic war, but we survive it and we prosper.

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Diversity

In a time when Americans feared a communist takeover of the world, we see Chekov, a Russian, on the bridge of the Enterprise. Twenty years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we see a show put a person of Japanese ancestry, Sulu, on the bridge with Chekov. An African American woman, Uhura, is a bridge officer herself. This is the world we’re still striving for today.

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Philosophy

Star Trek has always had episodes that posed philosophical questions, but it all began with The Original Series. Yes, there were plenty of episodes that focused on seducing green women, but TOS questioned its viewers with what we might do in a situation where we found ourselves the inferior life form, and how we might respond should a superior life form treat us as indifferently as we, at times, treat our own planet’s less evolved animals.

Best Characters

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Captain Kirk

You knew he’d have to be here, so let’s skip the how and get into why he’s a special character without having to compare him to other Trek captains. James Kirk is the prototypical romantic idea of a starship captain. He’s young to hold such a high rank, he’s handsome and charismatic, but he’s also evolved in a way that fits with the idea of our future the show sets out. Yes, we can get into his sexual proclivity and criticize the character for that, but episodes like Balance of Terror and The Enemy Within do a great job of complicating Kirk as a character and showing an appreciation for his gentler nature, his respect for life, and the effects of the strain of command.

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Spock

Another one you knew would have to make the cut, but let’s talk about why. Spock introduces us to Vulcans on the show, but he’s only half Vulcan. In that way, he’s a surrogate for the audience in understanding the differences between the races, but in another, very progressive way, he represents the joining of worlds the show hopes for, and what is mirrored in the civil rights movement of that time.

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Bones

Doctor McCoy is gruff, old fashioned and at times, even a little backward in his thinking by comparison to the other characters aboard Enterprise. Somehow, however, there’s still a place for him. He’s still a part of that world, still thrives in it, and the crew is better for having him there. Maybe this is Roddenberry’s way of acknowledging there will always be holdouts where progress is concerned, and maybe that’s okay.

Things We Can Forgive

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It’s Pollyanna

I love the optimism in Star Trek. It’s probably my favorite things about the franchise, but there are some things that get a little too sugar-coated. One thing that comes to mind is Gene Roddenberry’s insistence that currency does not exist in the Federation, despite references to “credits” in the show. Who would volunteer to scrub plasma conduits, or wear a red shirt in a landing party if they weren’t being paid? What does the Federation do if not enough people aspire to mine dilithium on colony worlds? Do they force them? That’s suddenly a much darker world, isn’t it? Even so, I’ll take a little wishful thinking over mindless pessimism. The issue of currency rarely comes up in the show anyway.

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Retcons

For those who don’t know the term, “retcon” means retroactive continuity. In essence, it’s what happens when a story contradicts itself and needs to be explained away. The Klingons’ appearance, and the changing color scheme of crew members’ jerseys are examples of this in the show. Gene Roddenberry described himself as a notorious revisionist, and told fans whatever the most recent instance laid out should be taken as canon. Given that Star Trek boasts improvement and evolution as some of its major themes, can’t we accept a little revising now and then?

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It didn’t do more

Simon Pegg, in promoting Star Trek: Beyond, expressed disappointment in the fact that some fans bristled at Sulu’s portrayal as homosexual in the movie. This was meant as an homage to George Takei, who originally portrayed the character, and is homosexual himself, but I think this portrayal may have undercut Roddenberry. We may feel discouraged by the intolerance we see in our daily lives today, but there’s no denying that whatever bigotry exists in our world, it isn’t the same as the institutionalized intolerance of the past. Some have said Gene Roddenberry would have loved to portray a gay character, but we have to remember he was facing bans in the south for having an interracial kiss on screen (Kirk and Uhura). Roddenberry may have wished he could push the envelope further. Today, an interracial kiss on screen isn’t even noteworthy, so before addressing the social issues Star Trek didn’t tackle, it’s only fair to acknowledge that we today aren’t up against the same things Roddenberry was in the 1960s.

Hopefully giving a little love to The Original Series assuages some of the perceived shade my last Trek article may have thrown in that direction. If you’re a die-hard fan of TOS, and you still feel I’ve wronged the classics, just remember that all I’ve really said is Star Trek is a franchise that has improved on itself. Would Gene Roddenberry have wanted it any other way?

3 Lists of 3 Mini Games in Video Games

There are some mini games—small games within larger one—that are more fun to play than the original video game in which they’re found. Mini games are so pervasive in video games that there are some video games that are nothing but compilations of mini games. Uncle Geekly’s looking at you, Mario Party and Wario Ware.

But which mini games are the best in the business? Which ones are ones someone could play for hours on end without finishing the main questline? Your uncle Geekly will give you his answer with this week’s 3 list of 3.

Great Mini Games

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Project Gotham Racing 2 (Geometry Wars)

Geometry Wars had its humble beginnings in the popular racing game Project Gotham Racing 2 as a hidden joke. The designers threw in this minimalist retro puzzle game, and it became so popular that it received a standalone release, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved.

This twin-stick space shooter had such addictive gameplay and stunning visuals that gamers didn’t care about the game’s uncompromising difficulty. Slap me around and call me novice.

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Super Monkey Ball (Monkey Target)

Rolling monkeys inside giant, transparent spheres is no easy task. I never got into Super Monkey Ball’s main game, but I’m up for a multiplayer game Monkey Target any time. Your monkey rolls down a huge ramp, and once they’ve built up enough momentum, those large balls open up to form wings. Then, players glide their monkeys gently through bananas and power-ups to land on targets found in the middle of the sea.

Gliding is relaxing, Monkey Target’s controls are far better than Super Monkey Ball’s, and the mini game is joy. I could play—and have played—this mini game all day.

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Animal Crossing (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Who needs a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Classic when you can collect in-game NES cartridges in Animal Crossing?

Sure, this one’s a little bit of a cheat because they’re classic NES games coded within a Wii game, but I got excited whenever I found an NES cartridge in Animal Crossing. I picked up Donkey Kong Jr. Math. Woo hoo!

 

Final Fantasy Mini Games

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Final Fantasy X (Blitzball)

I was going to make this list by incorporating Final Fantasy mini games within the larger list of great mini games, but I came up with 2 out 3 games coming from Final Fantasy, so FF’s getting its own list. I’m not even sorry.

The first one in this list is the one I didn’t include at first because the premise is the strangest of the three: Blitzball. Final Fantasy X’s Blitzball is underwater soccer meets basketball. It makes no sense. It’s also awesome.

I don’t know how many hours I wasted playing Blitzball instead of finishing Final Fantasy X’s main story line. I didn’t care that Sin was going to destroy Spira. I want to sign the best Blitzball goalie Nimrook to a long-term contract. I’m also going to transition from Wedge, who’s a great shooter early game, to a combination of Nedus (very fast and a great prospect for shooting) and Nav Guado (great counter-attacking forward). I’ll assemble a team that no one can beat. Mwah-ha-ha!

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Final Fantasy (Chocobo Racing)

Final Fantasy VII introduced chocobo racing, and it was a blast. The breeding system didn’t make a lot of sense, but the actual act of racing your chocobo (those are ostrich-type creatures for those who don’t play much Final Fantasy) played well. You had to know when to sprint your chocobo and when not to. I’m king of the chocobos.

The mini game was so popular that Final Fantasy brought the sport back for several iterations. Final Fantasy XIII-2 had a complex system where players could develop their chocobo’s statistics. You had to strike the right balance to achieve victory. Final Fantasy XV allows players to ride chocobos in the open world, which felt great, especially when Prompto makes up words for the song that plays every time a chocobo graces the screen.

“I like to ride my chocobo all day.” Me, too, Prompto. Me, too.

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Final Fantasy VIII (Triple Triad)

I find that most gamers fall into one of two mini card game camps: Triple Triad or Gwent. While I admit Gwent is a great game, it got its own release separate from The Witcher after all, I’m in the Final Fantasy VIII’s Triple Triad camp. I’m an older gamer. Deal with it.

I never used Quezacotl’s Card Mod Ability on any rare card. Keep your 100 Megalixirs; I want my Bahamut card. The same goes for three Diamond Armors. That Seifer card is too awesome.

I even cast the card capture spell so many times I lost count. I didn’t even care if I won a battle, I just wanted my cards. Sure, it’s a little like Pokemon, but I had to collect them all.

 

Fun skill checks that may as well be mini games

This one may need a little clarification. There are games within games, but there are also skill checks that can happen (like sneaking or fishing) that can occur within a game that’s really another mini game within a larger game. Here are three good examples of skill check mini games.

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Bioshock (Pipe Hacking)

A lot of games feature some lame computer hacking mini game—I’m looking at you Fallout 3’s word searches and Mass Effect 2’s matching blurry lines of code that you couldn’t pay me to play—but Bioshock took the classic game Pipe Dream and added a steampunk twist. One had to find and match pipes to make water flow where you wanted it to before the water escaped the system.

It’s a fun mini game that gets a little old after the hundredth hack, but it’s a great throwback in an equally great game.

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Fishing)

Gamers can fish as a mini game or skill check in numerous titles. Legend of Zelda even has several titles in its series where fishing is possible, but Ocarina of Time proves to be the best of the best.

The big payout is a piece of heart, but I liked it when I caught a fish so big that the guy who runs the plays deemed it “illegal.” Screw him. I threw his hat into the pond.

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Skyrim and other Bethesda titles (Lockpicking)

Skyrim started the old hair grip and screwdriver method of opening locks. Bethesda has perfected this rumble controller feedback, dexterous challenge. I know that I’d never be a great lockpicker in real life, but for a few hours, I can pretend with Skyrim, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and Fallout 3.

There are too many mini games to list here. Let us know what your favorites are in the comments and if you don’t agree with any of the games on this list, you can challenge me to lockpicking duel in Skyrim. First one to 100 wins.

3 Lists of 3 Tabletop Game Themes

Your uncle Geekly has talked about board game mechanisms in the past, so I figured it may be a good time to cover some tabletop games that tackle some great themes and intellectual properties. Let’s start with some board games that do a great job of putting their players in the middle of some other world.

Games that perfectly captured the intellectual property it used

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Firefly: The Game

I resisted playing this game for several years because I heard it used the pickup and delivery mechanism, and it sounded boring flying around the ‘Verse picking up things and dropping them off at other planets. But that’s what Serenity’s crew does. Firefly: The Game excels at capturing the feel of the original TV show. Players fly around various ports, picking up passengers and crew and cargo and performing jobs, while avoiding Reavers and the Alliance.

Easter Eggs flood this game. Character abilities and motivations—yes, there’s enough character development and story for the characters to have motivations—make sense. I’ve played and replayed the scenarios more than I can remember. This is a must play for any Firefly fan.

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Star Wars: Rebellion

I liked this game a ton when it first came out and stand by what I’ve said in the past that Star Wars: Rebellion is the original trilogy in a tabletop game. The only issue I had with it was its runtime. Firefly isn’t a short game either, but it’s quick compared to Star Wars: Rebellion. But like Firefly: The Game, Rebellion feels like the original trilogy.

The Empire tries to find the hidden Rebel base and crush it. The Rebels perform various tactics to undermine the Empire, so the planets overthrow their oppression. Rebellion is a great example of how to design an asymmetric game, but it also happens to cast the two gamers playing it in two very different positions that mirror—but doesn’t duplicate—the roles in the original movies.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past

This is another one I’ve talked about in the past, but Shadows of Time deserves another mention. It’s another game that features asymmetric sides that play like gamers would expect them to. One player takes on the role of Shedder and the rest of the Foot Clan, while the rest of the players join forces as the Turtles.

Each turtle’s power set matches their strength as ninjas and their personality. This is by far the quickest of the three games mentioned so far and that’s a huge plus for my family. I also like how adaptable Shadows of Time can be. Gamers may play a campaign (an extended story) or play individual scenarios. The dice sharing mechanism is great; it brings the combat to life.

Can you feel that? I think it’s called Turtle Power.

Games that don’t use an intellectual property, but they are heavily based on one

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Dead of Winter

There are plenty of Walking Dead board games out there; most of them stink, so don’t waste your time with them. Dead of Winter doesn’t use the IP, but it does a great job of capturing what makes the series great: internal struggle.

Are there zombies present? Yes, but like the TV show, player alliances and motives factor as much as the walkers. Traitors and the threat of traitors will have gamers doubting if the others seated at the table are friend or foe.

Dead of Winter also has plenty of survival elements, where players must determine which needs are most pressing. It’s a tense game that captures what the essence of The Walking Dead.

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Wasteland Express Delivery Service

As the name implies, this is another pickup and delivery game, but this time players traverse a dystopia like the one found in the Mad Max franchise.

I’m not going to lie, I like the idea of delivering packages while avoiding berserk motorbike gang members—from the safety of my gaming table of course. The game shows the underrepresented people of this world who just want to live a normal life apart from the freaks patrolling the roads. How does the other half live?

Wasteland Express Delivery Service does a great job of combining a dissimilar mechanic (pickup and delivery) and theme (Mad Max), but it’s using the Mad Max theme and designer Jon Gilmour doesn’t try to hide it. Wait. Gilmour’s a co-designer of Dead of Winter and Wasteland Express Delivery Service. I’m sensing a trend.

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Dinosaur Island

Yep. There is a trend. Gilmour co-designed the hodgepodge of game mechanisms that is Dinosaur Island, and Dinosaur Island is Jurassic Park the board game. Like The Walking Dead, there are a lot of bad Jurassic Park board games out there and Dinosaur Island is a great one that doesn’t have the license.

Players build their own Jurassic Park and how awesome is that? Dinosaur Island also happens to be a great study in how to combine seemingly unlikely game mechanisms to form a cohesive whole. I’m a Gilmour fan if you can’t tell.

Games with interesting themes

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Sagrada

Sagrada’s been a critical darling and that stems from the marriage of its theme and gameplay. Players compete to construct the stained-glass window masterpieces in the Sagrada Familia. The game uses dice drafting, and the dice it uses are color-coded to match the windows. It’s a simple, beautiful game that I highly recommend.

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Great Western Trail

Have you ever wanted to relive City Slickers? Well, you can with Great Western Trail. Players move cattle from Texas to Kansas city, taking turns to add to your herd, construct buildings, and contracting cowboys, engineers, and craftsman.

I’m not a huge fan of point salad games (point salad games are those games where players cobble together enough points from various means to achieve victory), but Great Wester Trail is a great strategy game and the theme of cattle wrestling isn’t used enough in tabletop games. My only complaint is that they don’t go through Omaha.

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New York Slice

Pizza. There aren’t enough games that use pizza as their theme. “I cut, you choose” game mechanism. There aren’t enough games that use the “I cut, you choose” game mechanism, and New York Slice’s gameplay is mostly that. The first player in the round splits up a pizza composed of 11 random slices (meat lovers, pepperoni, cheese, veggie, and more). The player to the first player’s left picks which slices they want and play continues in a clockwise fashion until the player who split the pizza gets the slices remaining.

New York Slice is lightning fast, and I can’t think of a better way of teasing dinner for your guests. Mwah-ha-ha!

Do you agree with my picks? Cool. If you don’t, you can take to the message boards and let me know about it comments.

3 Lists of 3 Collectible Card Games

And we’re back from our scheduled holiday break. Hope you had a great and geeky couple of weeks. Your uncle Geekly sure did. Let’s get this Monday started with a new 3 Lists of 3.

Ah. Collectible card games represented a very specific time in tabletop gaming history. When Magic: The Gathering came out in 1993, a deluge of similar games came out in its wake. Every gaming company wanted to throw their hat into the CCG ring. Several of these games were good, but few of them lasted.

Old Uncle Geekly has played several of these games, so get your booster packs ready.

Overlooked, Long-running CCGs

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Vampire: The Eternal Struggle

Let’s start with Richard Garfield’s follow up to Magic, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle. This game is deeper than people might first think. It’s based off White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade RPG, so there’s plenty of political intrigue as well as combat and hunting for food. You know, the stuff you’d think vampires would be up to at night.

The series may come and go, but fan support for Vampire: The Eternal Struggle persists, and it remains in production (as of this write-up). What truly separates Vampire from Magic is that Vampire insists on a higher player count. It’s best played with more players, so gamers can form alliances and potentially betray those alliances.

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Battle Spirits

Battle Spirits is a Mike Elliot design—you’ll see Mike Elliot’s name again on this list—that never really took off in the States due to inaccurate translations from Japanese to English, but it has interesting resource management component. Like a simplified Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, Battle Spirits players use their core crystals (also their life) to summon creatures.

The push-pull of when to summon these creatures is magnified in Battle Spirits as there are fewer crystals with which to summon creatures. If you run out of core crystals, you lose. It’s a fun, brisk tight-rope walk. Battle Spirits was first released in 2009, and as of this write-up, it’s still in print.

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Legend of the Five Rings

Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) makes this list on its character development and lore. It was in print from 1995-2015 and has since become a living card game, but while it was in print as a collectible card game, players affected the world in which they played.

If a certain faction won a tournament, that faction would assume power in the world of Rokugan. L5R’s actual card play centers on building one’s stronghold. Dynasty and fate cards may alter a stronghold’s future or the surrounding land. The personality cards are based on characters of L5R, and they change and grow during each match as well as the stories after major tournaments.

CCGs with Unique Game Mechanisms

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Doomtown: Reloaded

Doomtown combines Poker with a collectible card game, and the Poker aspect to the game is the one that determines a player’s combat power. Each card has an ability but also a card suit and value. This leads to a very interesting push-pull. While most collectible card games require a gamer to think of only a card’s ability, one may choose one card over another because it works better for playing the Poker side of things.

It also doesn’t hurt that Doomtown is more of an area control game. Movement is just as important as combat as players go back and forth, building up the town and trying to control as much of the town as they can throughout the game. The currency may be called “victory points,” but it functions as money. One must consider the ebb and flow of their actions to be successful and that makes for an interesting puzzle.

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Hecatomb

I never realized how many collectible games Mike Elliot has made in his career, but Hecatomb is another good one. It’s essentially Magic with pentagon cards that players can play on top of each other. The edges of the pentagram can hold extra play text and that’s how each player upgrades the creatures they summon.

It doesn’t surprise me that Hecatomb is no longer in print. The production value was through the roof and unsustainable, but it’s an excellent game and if you find it in a sale rack or garage sale, it’s worth a shot.

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Dark Age: Feudal Lords

I hope Dark Age: Feudal Lords gets reprinted as a self-contained game or living card game because the combat system in it is unique. It borrows more from miniatures games and RPGs than it does from typical collectible card games. The characters have a range of numbers (on a die) that can hit your opponents and power up cards add to that range. It’s a simple, elegant combat system that’s a lot of fun.

I could take or leave the actual theme (dystopia) so a rebranding of this combat system would be welcome as well. Still, if you can find Dark Age on the cheap, I’d highly recommend it.

Collectible Card Games that Became Living Card Games

I’ll preface this section by clarifying what a living card game is. The term living card game (LCG) can only be used by Fantasy Flight Games because they trademarked the term, but many other card games qualify as LCGs.

LCGs work differently than CCGs. While CCGs have random packs that players may purchase, and players must purchase a lot of packs—and I mean a lot of packs—to gain a copy of each card in a set, LCGs have everything available from a set in one box or series of boxes. Both game types encourage—or better yet require—deck building.

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Android: Netrunner

A lot of people’s favorite LCG Android: Netrunner started as a CCG, and it was a very good CCG, but it works just as well as an LCG. The two players have asymmetric decks. One side plays as a futuristic corporation while the other plays as a hacker trying to break into the corporation’s defenses.

I always liked the concept behind Netrunner, but it’s a game that has a lot of barriers for entry. While the two sides have similarities in the card types they play, the game renames these cards. It’s almost like learning two new games for each side, and there are plenty of Netrunner fans who know how to play your deck better than you if you’re a beginner.

Still, it’s a solid game that deserves its community. Each side feels different and thematic.

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Star Wars: The Card Game

The Star Wars Customizable Card Game was fun to play, but the unruly card sets made it difficult to balance the game. It may have followed the movies a little closely too. If the rebel player built a deck centered around destroying the Death Star (and they’d win the game by blowing up the Death Star), the empire player would only have to not play the Death Star to prevent the rebel player from winning.

Star Wars: The Card Game LCG does a better job of balancing these discrepancies while still giving the players the flavor they want. The various objective cards a based on the specific decks each player constructs, so one side can’t play keep away. Players will want to use as many of the various expansions as each one invokes a sense of place. The Hoth expansion feels like Hoth.

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Vs. System 2PCG

The Versus system was a relatively short-lived CCG from the early 2000s. It did a decent job of depicting all manner of comic book characters. You could even pit one comic book world against another—Marvel versus DC anyone?—and that wouldn’t happen again until Dice Masters.

Vs. System 2PCG takes elements from the popular Versus system and turns it into an LCG. Of course, it’s not named an LCG because it’s published by Upper Deck, but it functions the same way. Vs. System 2PCG streamlines the original gameplay and while that may turn off some Versus purists, the game had gotten bloated. The new LCG does a better job of introducing new players to the system. Marvel, Alien, and Predator have gotten their own LCG releases. We’re still waiting on DC.

That’s what I have for CCGs. I’m sure I didn’t collect them all. If you have any suggestions or complaints, leave a message with my answering service or just leave a comment.

3 Lists of 3 Unfortunate Comic Book Characters

There are several reasons a superhero or supervillain could be lame or unfortunate. Usually, it’s their name or their superpower. Some folks like to refer to these characters as morts; they aren’t long for this mortal coil. Someone take them out of their misery. Let’s take a walk on the sad side with this week’s three lists of three.

Poor Unfortunate Names

Doctor Hormone

Doctor Hormone

Yeah, Doctor Hormone was a short-lived 1940s comic, and it doesn’t hold up today to say the least. First, his name is Doctor Hormone. At best that’s the name of a product someone might sell on a late-night informercial. Second, he wears a pencil moustache and tends to sport a smarmy vibe. The good doctor of hormones doesn’t look like someone you’d leave your kids alone with on a sleepover.

But enough of those nasty thoughts. Hormone is the guy’s actual last name, because it’s a normal surname you’d find anywhere. I know of about three Phil Hormones from Hastings, Nebraska. The hormones this particular Mr. Hormone uses are “youth hormones.” These are the ones everyone knows about that keep someone young and that’s what happened to the good doctor. He was eighty-something, took a youth hormone, and became a twenty-something again. Like a high school senior, he always stays the same age.

Ebony White The Spirit

Ebony White

To be fair, Ebony White was also created in the 1940s. He played a major role in The Spirit comic books, but that role was as a less-than-intelligent buddy for the real hero to explain the story to. He also happened to chauffeur other characters.

His look was many stereotypes rolled into one. Dark skin and big lipped, his creator Will Eisner liked him so much that Ebony White would get his own solo storylines. Unfortunately, he became a vehicle for comedy and little else. I understand that he’s a product of his time and environment, but it’s hard to watch.

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Pieface

Thomas Kalmaku is one of Hal Jordan’s closest friends. He knows the Green Lantern’s secret identity and keeps a journal of his deeds. When he finally receives superpowers, he improves those around him. He’s intelligent and hard working. He doesn’t deserve the nickname Pieface.

One fan theory suggests that Hal named him Pieface because he’s Inuit, and it’s a reference to Eskimo Pies. While that’s bad enough, the real reason behind the name is far worse. Pieface is a racial slur used for anyone with a round, flat face, specifically people of Asian descent and occasionally Inuits.

For decades Thomas accepts the Pieface nickname without batting an eye, and it’s only been recent incarnations of the character that have him rebel against an offensive name.

Poor Unfortunate Origins or Motives

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Codpiece

This one could be filed as lame for his powers as well as his name. It’s the whole package.

Thank goodness this guy only made one appearance in Doom Patrol #70. He lamented the size of his manhood and believed bigger was better when it came to impressing women. He never felt tall enough. It’s like Randy Newman once said, “Short people got no reason to live.”

He could’ve worn stilts and compensated for his height but apparently, he felt small in other ways and attached a codpiece outfitted with a rocket cannon (pun intended, I assume), a drill (another pun I’m sure), scissors, and a spring-loaded boxing glove (because why wouldn’t you).

His codpiece doesn’t last long (again, I assume the pun is intended) and he’s thwarted by the Doom Patrol, but let’s be honest, he was doomed from the start. One of the creators had to have been going through something. Either that or they need to share what they’re smoking.

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Beard Hunter

Ernest Franklin’s hatred of beards started the moment he realized that he lacked the male hormones required to grow his own beard. Again, with hormones. He began his war against beards by killing his stepdad and continued to kill other bearded men he met. He became the Beard Hunter.

Man, the writers at Doom Patrol can come up with some odd stories. The Beard Hunter is another villain, Jim and I wouldn’t want to run into. Sorry, Ernie. I don’t mean to offend you, but my hair migrated from the top of my head to my jawline.

Arm Fall Off Boy

Arm-Fall-Off-Boy

Have you ever wanted to be able to rip off your own arm, so you’d have something to bludgeon someone with? That’s idea behind Arm-Fall-Off-Boy. He can detach his arms and use them as weapons.

He makes this list because the only explanation for his power comes from Matter-Eater Lad—another “great” name—who claimed Arm-Fall-Off-Boy was careless when holding anti-gravity metal Element 152. He may have been kidding, but having your arms pop off by grabbing a strange metal makes about as much sense as any other reason your arm may have for spontaneously detaching.

Poor Unfortunate Powers

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Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist made it into the X-Force roster in Deadpool 2 and died in a woodchipper. Oddly enough, he died quickly in another mission during the X-Statix run of X-Force, but not before he had one of the worst dates in comic history.

Zeitgeist’s power is super stomach acid; he barfs caustic acid. He discovers he has this power after he drunkenly vomits on his then-girlfriend, burning off her face. That’s one way to end a relationship.

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Longneck

Jonah van Helsing has a 6-foot long neck and can wrap it around people and throw them. Yeah, he’s a human giraffe.

What’s worse is that Marvel’s “Decimation” event that aimed to reduce the universe’s number of mutants had Longneck lose his powers. His neck tried to revert to normal but snapped in the process. Ouch!

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Goldballs

Fabio Medina is another student at Xavier’s School for the Gifted. His gift is to project gold-colored balls made of an unknown substance and of different sizes from any part of his body at high speeds.

He uses these balls as concussive weapons. He can also reabsorb the balls into his body. So. Many. Jokes.

There are plenty more unfortunate comic book characters; these nine are only the beginning. Guess what, your uncle Geekly poops cat nip. That explains the stoned cats in our neighborhood. Do you know of a hero or villain with a worse power? Let us know in the comments.