My Favorite Gaming Element for Apex Legends

Your uncle Geekly has tried out the latest battle royal craze Apex Legends and I like it despite loathing the genre. I’m more of a solo experience video gamer. Give me a story and characters I can invest in and I’m happy; multiplayer games don’t usually do a lot for me. Battle royal games and the chaos they bring do even less for me, but I’m surprised by Apex Legends’ focus on teamwork.

Everything about Apex Legends screams that the players must work as a team. When players jump into the map, they do so as a team and that shows the emphasis on team play at each game’s beginning. I’ve heard on some message boards that Fortnite players dislike being forced to jump as a team, but Fortnite is every player for themselves. Sure, there is a squad (or team) option for the game, but it pales in comparison to the every person for themselves game mode. Apex Legends’ squad play outshines Fortnite’s most likely because players jump as a team.

Apex-Legends-Ping

The communication system, or ping system, works like a charm. The Gears of War series may have instituted a ping system, but Apex Legends gets it right. Players don’t need to use mics if they don’t have them. Heck. Even if they do have them, they may prefer to use the ping system. If you see a shield or gun a teammate can use, ping it so the item shows up on their map. If you see an enemy on the next ridge, ping the location so it shows up on your teammates’ map and you can converge on the enemy. Players can even ping one location for their teammates and another for themselves—you go here, I’ll go here—and a team can formulate a pincer attack in near real time.

Can Apex Legends be played by oneself? Yes, but not well. I’ve had teammates drop out because of server issues—of which there have been a lot since the game’s launch—and ended up in a solo team. I’ve made it to the final three squads in several of these instances, but when the game gets tight, more firepower is needed, firepower that won’t exist if a player is by themselves. The closest I ever got to winning a game as predominately a solo squad was second place with one other combatant standing. That’s not saying that Uncle Geekly’s good at Apex Legends, in fact, I strive for mediocrity, but my point is that one can’t win the game that easily going solo.

featured-apex-legends-ping-system.jpg

More than any other battle royal game—on the market today—Apex Legends focuses on a team dynamic and if I’m going to play a multiplayer game, I prefer a team atmosphere. I could carry this team mentality further and discuss Overwatch at length and how the character selection screen breeds discontent while Apex Legends has a more relaxed feel, but let’s say that the concept of team shines through most of Apex Legends and that’s where players will find the fun. If you prefer team based multi-player games, you may enjoy Apex Legends.

Do you agree that Apex Legends is a good team battle royal game? Do you have a character that you prefer to player more than another? Let us know in the comments.

My Favorite Game Mechanics: Pit Crew

Many people won’t like Pit Crew. The real-time aspect of the game can get players flustered and dampen some of the fun, but that’s what I like about it. While most real-time games have players dashing to play cards or some other game device to a common area, Pit Crew has gamers play solitaire.

The rules are simple, but I won’t go into them in detail here. Players assume the role of a pit crew during a stock car race. They play cards numbered 1-10 in either white or black numbers (there’s a bonus if a player uses all of one color) on areas where they must place a pair of the same number, go up or down in number (with 10 and 1 being adjacent), and reach a specific sum. The first ones to do so begin rolling a die. For every 6 they roll, they move their car one space on the track—and that’s where it gets interesting.

PitCrew_BoardGame04.jpg

Geoff Engelstein has created a psychological game with his players. The impulse is to start playing your cards quickly as soon as you hear someone roll a die. But Pit Crew is more concerned with gamers playing a clean game of solitaire. Your opponents will gain more spaces with the penalties incurred by messing up a pattern, than any spaces gained on a die.

Roll. You may forget what total your on for the area that needs a specific sum. Roll. Did I play a three and then a four or a five and then a four? Roll! I don’t care if the color on the numbers match, I’m placing those two ones in a pair spot.

PitCrew_BoardGame03.jpg

What’s worse is that gamers may feel more impowered to give their opponents bonuses rather than take a penalty. This is another psychological trick Pit Crew uses. If my car went backwards on the board for every one of my mistakes, the penalty would only affect me. With all my opponents (it may be a 3-player game) gaining a benefit from my mistakes, my mistakes are multiplied, but in an odd sense, a lot of gamers would prefer giving other players a bonus instead of accepting a penalty.

PitCrew_BoardGame02.jpg

Pit Crew poses an interesting question. Is it better to be punished or rewarded?

What do you like most about Pit Crew? What are the things you don’t like about Pit Crew? Heck, is it better to be punished or rewarded in games?

It’s a good thing I’m a glutton for punishment, let me know what you really think in the comments.

My Favorite Game Mechanics: Marvel Heroes

I don’t care too much for Marvel Heroes, the miniatures game published by Fantasy Flight Games in 2006. It’s a little fiddly for my taste. There’s even a system in place to prevent a runaway winner, and while it does a good job of keeping the game close, it makes players feel a little less super.

I do like the game’s combat system. Leave it to a superhero game that depicts four superhero teams (X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Marvel Knights) and their arch-nemeses to deliver the goods for combat.

marvelheroes_overview

Hi, it’s your uncle Geekly here and if you lasted long enough to not rage close this article, I’ll let you know how Marvel Heroes made Rock, Paper, Scissors interesting and fun.

I’ve talked briefly about Marvel Heroes in the past. It plays out well enough. Villains cause trouble in various places in New York and the various players (in charge of superhero teams) send their heroes to deal with said trouble. Usually, this means combat.

Each hero and villain have attacks—heroes always have three, but villains range from 1-3 attacks—they can make and each of these attacks has a value for attack, defense, and intelligence (intelligence equates more to initiative or speed than actual intelligence). Every attack is assigned to one of three tokens that a player can choose from and each player in the battle chooses which of their attacks they wish to use.

marvelheroes_villaincard

If you want to deal more damage, pick an attack that’s high in damage. If you’re worried about accepting damage, choose one with higher defense. Or if you don’t think you’ll get much out of a character (usually a low-level villain), pick one with a high intelligence so you can get in a quick shot before that character’s discarded.

The numbers indicated on the cards relate to the number of specialty dice you roll, so there’s always an element of luck added to the equation. It all boils down to an intriguing and layered take of rock, paper, scissors, but it’s done well. I just wish the rest of the game excited me as much as the combat. Still, with a few house rules it can be a great play.

What do you like most about the Marvel Heroes Strategy Board Game? What are the things you don’t like about Marvel Heroes? Maybe I’m a zombie to all things Marvel and just want to hate. You can chew my ear about it in the comments.

My Favorite Storytelling Elements Spider-Man “Kraven’s Last Hunt”

Most critics dub “Kraven’s Last Hunt” the greatest Kraven story ever told and one of the best Spider-Man stories. It features plenty of comic book action, but the character studies are what set “Kraven’s Last Hunt” from other Spidey tales.

The world no longer appreciated Kraven’s physical prowess. It no longer marveled at his courage, and most animal rights activists condemned him—he was a hunter after all—and the world he lived in no longer made sense. Before he met Spider-Man he’d never known defeat or humiliation. Now Kraven has fallen ill. He knows the end is near, but before he goes, he vows to reclaim his honor and prove his superiority over Spider-Man. He went out for one last hunt.

spider-man_kraven

“Kraven’s Last Hunt” embraces Kraven’s personal struggles. It blends aspects from classic literature and recurring themes to find a deeper truth. Kraven doesn’t just want to kill Spider-Man. In fact, Kraven doesn’t kill Spidey when he has the chance. He buries Spidey alive on his complex and assumes his identity. There’s even a moment where Kraven rescued Mary Jane, Spidey’s new wife, and she can see through Kraven’s disguise. Kraven falls short of being a hero. He never was one. This is a story that questions what it means to be a hero.

Kraven also thinks he can drive Spider-Man past the point where he ceases to be a hero. A rat-like monster named Vermin stalks the streets of New York while Spidey rests six-feet under. Kraven beats the creature unconscious, brutalizes him, and takes him prisoner. After Spidey comes to, he wants revenge for the time Kraven took from him. His anger leads him to Vermin, who Kraven uses as pawn to see if Spidey is strong enough to do unto Vermin what he did. Spidey proves that he’s strong enough not to.

spider-man_kraven_in_spider-mans_suit

There are so many themes of what makes a hero and what makes a good person that it’s easy to see why “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is high on most critics lists of Spider-Man stories. It not only portrays Kraven at both the height of his powers and the lowest, it does a great job in its portrayal of Peter and Mary Jane’s young marriage.

Readers see how MJ deals with Peter’s disappearance and how she’d react if Peter ever died in action. It’s a great window into the life of someone who must stay up late, worrying if their loved one is okay. In short, “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is a triumph and a must read for any Spider-Man fan or Spidey newbie.

Is there anything about “Kraven’s Last Hunt” that you liked that I didn’t mention? If there is, message me and I’ll give you Jim’s phone number to complain to him. Or you could let us know in comments.

My Favorite Game Mechanic: Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger

Sometimes you want a game that’s easy to learn. Sometimes you want a blast from the past. Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger happens to be both, and your uncle Geekly found a lot of enjoyment out of the game. So much so, that I can’t wait for the next game of the Choose Your Own Adventure series.

If you’ve ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book, you’re seventy-five percent familiar with this game’s mechanisms. Seriously. House of Danger adds a simple skill check system, but the rest of the game follows the original book. Yes. R. A. Montgomery released a Choose Your Own Adventure book of the same name in 1982.

houseofdanger02

I think this game came at the right time. Many games borrow ideas from the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books (T.I.M.E. Stories and most escape room games), but House of Danger commits to recreating one. It’s simple, but it works.

Since the pages (of the novel) are split into individual cards, it’s easy to play the game as a family—and in saying you’re playing the game I really mean that a family or group of friends is reading a book together. I like how House of Danger draws the players’ attention to the Choose Your Own Adventure style of books.

houseofdanger_chooseyourownadventuregame01

There were a few moments where die rolls took over the game—I’m looking at you, braving the underground maze—but the bulk of the game when I played with my family was engaging with the written material and making choices that went well or went horribly wrong. And yes, there are moments that make someone what to say that they never did that. Their finger was on the previous page the whole time.

It can be difficult to add a new element to something or manipulate how a story is consumed, but House of Danger does a good job of capturing the feel of a Choose Your Own Adventure, while making it feel new. The added die rolls and progress tracks don’t detract from the original fun.

houseofdanger

Many gamers won’t like that House of Danger has limited replay value, but it’s cheap and like the novels, you can gift them to someone else when you’re done. Sometimes it’s nice to have a finite number of plays. Sometimes it’s nice to relive the past. It also doesn’t hurt that House of Danger is inexpensive.

If you don’t agree with me, go to page 472 or you can leave a comment.

 

My Favorite Game Mechanism: Super Mario Bros.

I’ve talked about this before years ago, but one of my favorite game designs is the first Super Mario Bros., specifically the game’s first stage World 1-1. It’s an example of flawless game design that has inspired many game designers since. It’s a wonderful use of intuitive game design.

Mario begins on the screen’s far left. The player could try and move farther left, but the game won’t allow the player to do so. It’s showing the player that Mario must go right. Sure, the buttons are limited, but Mario can only move and jump, and the controls are easy to understand without ever reading the game’s manual. Soon, Mario encounters a Goomba (a mushroom-shaped enemy). Since Mario can only jump and the player gets caught in a corridor where they must interact with the Goomba, they find that Goombas can be defeated by jumping on them. This informs the player of Mario’s skillset and his enemies’ weakness.

supermariobrosstage1-1_start

A question mark box flashes ahead, begging to be pressed. When pressed, a mushroom emerges. New players won’t know if the mushroom’s good or bad, but the game’s design makes it almost impossible to miss it. The mushroom turns out to be a powerup.

There’s even a moment where a seemingly random jump would result in finding a hidden 1UP mushroom (or extra life mushroom) and since it looks like the previous powerup mushroom, players are informed to grab it. A field study showed that most people who had never played Super Mario Bros. before found the 1UP mushroom. That’s because of its placement in the world; the first 1UP mushroom’s placement is just before a hole in the floor that players must jump over. It takes a little intuition to learn this game.

SuperMarioBrosLegos.jpg

Speaking of jumping over something, the first occurrence of a piranha plant, a polka-dot Venus flytrap enemy, is also strategically placed. With its mouth and fangs pointed up, players are informed to avoid them, but if a plant like that can go up a pipe, Mario can go down a pipe and that’s exactly what Mario can do there. It’s an excellent way of revealing a game’s secrets.

The rest of the level continues in a similar fashion, non-verbally teaching the game. When gamers say that they want intuitive game design or controls, they want something like Super Mario Bros. World 1-1. It’s still one of the best game designs.

Don’t believe me? When Hirokazu Yasuhara designed 1991’s Sonic the Hedgehog, he stated that he tried to recreate Super Mario Bros. World 1-1 with every level. That’s high praise from Nintendo’s greatest competitor at the time. What are your favorite elements of classic or modern video games? If you disagree with my choice in World 1-1, feel free to jump on my Goomba head. That might hurt. Instead, leave me an angry comment.

 

My Favorite Storytelling Element: Spider-Man “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man”

Superheroes visiting terminally ill children may be a reality in the 2010s—Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Tom Holland has even visited children in the hospital—but in 1984 when “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” was first published (The Amazing Spider-Man #248), the Make A Wish foundation was barely three years old.

The story had some exploit of Spider-Man’s, but no one remembers what battle Spidey fought. Readers latched onto a kid named Tim who suffers from leukemia and only has a short time left. All Tim wants is to meet his hero. Spider-Man gives him his wish.

Part of what makes “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” great is Tim’s wish fulfillment. It’s a short human-interest story that writer Roger Stern made Will Eisneresque, and that is a fantastic element of the story, it dwarfs any battle, but I what I liked most happened after Spider-Man sees all the memorabilia the kid has collected (kinescopes of Spidey’s early TV appearances, a whole album of The Daily Bugle’s retractions, and bullets from a crime foiled by Spider-Man), and the kid asks Spidey who he is as Spider-Man’s about to leave. This kid loves him.

Spidey hesitates but figures the kid won’t tell anyone his identity, so he takes off his mask and identifies himself as Peter Parker. What Spidey didn’t expect was that by doing this it would lead to him telling the kid how he became Spider-Man. Part of him wants the kid or someone to know his secret.

He imagines the kid will hate him after he tells him how his negligence led to his uncle’s death, but it doesn’t. The kid hugs him and a reassures him. It’s okay for a hero to make mistakes. For a moment, it’s okay for Spider-Man to be Pete.

During this holiday season, I hope you know that it’s okay to make mistakes so long as you learn from them. It’s also okay to take off any mask you may wear and be yourself. Take care and be nice to each other.