Top 5 Wonder Woman Villains

She may not have as extensive a rogues gallery as Batman, but the first lady of superheroes has some interesting villains of her own. The Wonder Woman feature film’s out today so let’s celebrate with our list of the Amazon Princess’s greatest villains.

5: Doctor Psycho

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Okay. He’s got a goofy name and an even stranger appearance but Doctor Psycho has developed into one of Wonder Woman’s best enemies. He wants to control Diana Prince and for that Doctor Psycho may be the quintessential Wonder Woman villain. She combats stereotypes. She vows she won’t be dominated by any man—or woman for that matter—and Doctor Psycho yearns for Wonder Woman at his heel. He’s pretty much an allegory for misogyny and chauvinism. Or perhaps its physical manifestation. Maybe that’s why he’s a small man.

4: Maxwell Lord

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This one may be a bit of a cheat. Maxwell Lord is a Wonder Woman villain, he’s gone toe to toe with her countless times, but his influence extends beyond just her. At one point Maxwell Lord reinstated the Justice League with new members and waited years to hatch his plan for world domination. Talk about a long con. He’s a manipulative bastard and a perfect complement to Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth. Wonder Woman didn’t catch Lord’s elaborate lies until it was too late. Maxwell Lord would make a good villain in a future Wonder Woman film.

3: Ares

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Ah, we finally get to the villain of the first Wonder Woman movie: Ares. No one should question his power. Ares is a god. He certainly has more than enough power to take on the Amazonian princess. He also has personal reasons to target her. His and Diana’s relationship has changed with each iteration of Wonder Woman. Sometimes Ares is shunned by the Amazons, forced to impose his will on the world of man. Other times he’s an uneasy ally. Regardless, he has personal ties to the character (he’s her uncle). One of my favorite Ares stories comes from Brian Azzarello’s New 52 run when Diana must take Ares’s place in Olympus. No matter what the story, Ares is usually a compelling foil.

2: Circe

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Circe is to Wonder Woman what Black Mask is to Batman. She’s Diana’s dark negative. While Wonder Woman defends her sisters while trying to understand the world of man, Circe wants to sow distrust and watch the whole thing burn. Both are princesses of the ancient world. Both have ties to Greek gods. (Wonder Woman is one of Zeus’s many children and Hecate uses Circe as her revenge against the gods.) Both have reasons to distrust man. But Wonder Woman can overcome her distrust and foster understanding. Circe refuses. She’s formidable. Occasionally, she tries to coax Diana to her way of thinking. The fact that she may have a point at times makes her another great villain.  But she’s not Wonder Woman’s number one.

1: Cheetah

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Barbara Ann Minerva (Cheetah) and Diana Prince have a long, complicated history. Barbara is an anthropologist who wanted—in most DC realities—proof of the Amazonians’ existence so she’s thrilled when she befriends Diana. Wonder Woman is living proof Amazons not only existed, they continue to thrive. But usually, Barbara’s curiosity (of wanting to find Wonder Woman’s home Themyscira) gets the better of her and she suffers the curse of the god Urzkartaga who transforms her into a half-woman, half-cheetah being with superhuman powers. Of course, the story changes from one reality to another but this is the main gist. The two faceoff a lot and their former friendship often colors their battles. These confrontations tend to get personal.

There were several villains who didn’t make the list. Giganta just missed it. I disqualified The First Born from Azzarello’s run because I haven’t seen him in any other Wonder Woman story arc but the one he was in was amazing. Seriously, you should try the New 52 Wonder Woman trades volumes 1-6. You won’t be disappointed.

Did we get the list right, for the most part? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

 

 

Top 5 Video Game Franchises

Call in sick, ignore phone calls, and don’t change out of your pajamas. These video game series beg you to play them back-to-back-to-back.

In this Top 5, Jim and I discuss our favorite video game franchises. Most video game franchises are at least three games long, so shorter franchises may not be on this list. Casual games weren’t included in this list as it’s difficult to rate them against triple A titles and deserve their own list.

Without further ado, here are our top five video game franchises.

Jim’s Top 5

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5) The Elder Scrolls

A lot is made of Bethesda and the glitchiness of their games, but they get a pass from me. The sheer enormity of their titles makes some bugs all but inevitable, and in my experiences, the game-breaking glitches have been pretty few. The Elder Scrolls franchise brings an immersive world that I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into, and the longevity of their titles speaks for itself. Mind you, Skyrim is five years old and going strong. A lot of that is the modding community keeping things fresh, but The Elder Scrolls has strong replay value, and that’s a huge factor for me in dropping sixty bucks on any game.

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4) Fallout

I may be called a Bethesda fanboy, but the Fallout series makes my list too. It hits for all the reasons The Elder Scrolls does, but with the added appeal of what I consider stronger storytelling. This is especially true in more modern releases like Fallout 4 and New Vegas before it, but the post-apocalyptic setting of Fallout pushes a lot of difficult, morally gray decisions on the player. Trying to decide which faction to align with in Fallout 4 is tough. Even the widely accepted “evil” factions have their points to make, and the “good guys” get their hands plenty dirty. Fallout also earns extra credit for cutting its dark settings and content with some pretty solid satirical humor.

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3) Batman (The Arkham-verse)

I’m the comics geek, so you had to know this one would make it, right? These games make you feel like you’re Batman. Everything, from the fighting mechanics to the stealth, bleeds Batman in Gotham City. The series’ final installment, Arkham Knight, lost its way in very disappointing fashion, but the rest of the series is gold. I’ll even take the unpopular stance of adding Arkham Origins to that list. It’s the only title not produced by Rocksteady, so many don’t count it, but I have never understood or agreed with much of the criticism. Origins offers one of the most compelling stories in the franchise, and tons of fan service for long-time followers of the characters.

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2) Fable

This isn’t going to be a popular decision because too many fans are still angry with Peter Molyneux. It’s true, he promised a lot more with each installment of Fable than he ever delivered. The thing is, I still really loved what he delivered. The world of Albion is gorgeous when it wants to be and terrifying when it should be. There’s a real heart to its story, and its bolstered by a wealth of humor, plenty of which is my kind of low-brow.

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1) Mass Effect

I’ll come right out and say it. I hated the ending to Mass Effect 3. I’ve blogged about it plenty, and I’ve called the trilogy hundreds of hours of the best gaming I’ve ever done insulted in the last twenty minutes. That should show you however, just how good everything before the letdown is. The world of Mass Effect is visually stunning, intellectually stimulating, and deeply immersive. The Mass Effect universe offers political intrigue, ethical dilemmas, and characters you will come to care very much about. I have no idea what Andromeda will bring, but as upset as I still am about the ending to Mass Effect’s first trilogy, it is a testament to the power of the franchise that I’m still on the hook for the start of the next trilogy.

Kyle’s Top 5

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5) Bioshock

I love the Mass Effect universe—it’ll be on my list later—but Rapture is one of the most unique video game locales. What happens when a fictional Howard Hughes who read too many Ayn Rand novels builds an underwater paradise? Nothing good. The original Bioshock was video game gold, the second installment was solid but didn’t quite live up to the first, and Bioshock Infinite leaned too heavily on time-travel, but the series has great characters and the world is one I’ve lost myself in for hours. It also doesn’t hurt that the first time you see Rapture, even though you’re expecting it, is jaw-dropping.

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4) Elder Scrolls

I’ll admit it. I’m a Bethesda fanboy. I would’ve had Fallout on my list too but I disqualified it because there weren’t enough entries by Bethesda (2.5) or Interplay (2.5). Fallout: New Vegas was Interplay’s Fallout 3, retrofitted for inclusion in the Bethesda series, that’s why the world feels different. Elder Scrolls was always Bethesda’s baby and it’s a pillar of modern video gaming.

I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent in Tamriel. I’d go with hundreds if not thousands. With each Elder Scrolls installment, there are more time sinks: quests big and small, building/decorating your house or houses, collecting all the world’s books, organizing your library, cooking, crafting, brewing, and so on. Some of those activities may only be available through mods. I’m stopping with that short list because I don’t want Bethesda to know more things it can put in the next Elder Scrolls that’ll eat up my waking hours.

Yes. There can be plenty of bugs, but like Jim said, Tamriel’s a huge place so some bugs in an Elder Scrolls game should be expected. I enjoy the Elder Scrolls. I enjoy them so much that I play The Elder Scrolls Online and I don’t usually like MMOs.

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3) Mass Effect

I’ll repeat what Jim said about Mass Effect: great characters, ethical dilemmas, political intrigue, stunning graphics, deeply immersive. I’ll add an interesting origin of intelligent life as we know it to the mix.

Mass Effect uses a common video game writing technique. Wrex says “Shepard” to a lot of dialogue choices. In fact, most of the characters will say the same thing no matter what you choose. Even when your choices (dialogue and actions) cause the script to splinter, the story goes back to a common thread shared by all choices. It’s what the industry calls beads on a string storytelling.

There are right and wrong ways to do this. Mass Effect is the best at small, tight beads on a string storytelling (the excellent Witcher series, which I haven’t played enough of, uses large, loose beads on a string), but multiple plays reveal that you never did have a lot of choices, even if you omit Mass Effect’s final minutes. Still, it’s unavoidable for this game type and Mass Effect has one of the best stories and great characters. I had a blast playing Mass Effect the first play through and look forward to the next trilogy. Bring on Andromeda.

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2) Super Mario Bros.

I’m not just the game geek, I’ve copy edited and designed games. When I look for flawless game design, I examine Super Mario Bros. World 1-1. You don’t have to read the instructions or know anything about Mario—this was the series’ first installment after all—to be able to play this introductory level.

Mario starts on the screen’s far left. The game’s showing the player that Mario must go right. Mario can only move and jump. 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. The rest of the level continues in a similar fashion, non-verbally teaching the game. When gamers say, they want intuitive game design or controls, they want something like Super Mario Bros. World 1-1. It’s game design perfection.

The rest of the series has plenty of gems. Some of these gems revolutionized video gaming. Super Mario 64 showed how camera angles should work in a 3D game, even though some modern games forget. Mario Galaxy made great use of motion controls, something other platformers haven’t done enough of or well enough. Very few game series can boast as many awards, perfect ratings from critics, or say their main character is as recognizable as Mickey Mouse. I don’t know how many Nintendo systems were and are sold for the promise of a new Super Mario Brothers.

Mario didn’t just rescue the princess, he rescued video games. The market imploded in 1983 and it took Mario’s strength to make video games the past time they are today. Super Mario Bros. may be an obvious choice but there’s a reason for that. Come to think of it, how is it not number one?

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1) Legend of Zelda

Yep. The only video game series that can say it has more perfect ratings from critics, recognizable and beloved characters, plenty of awards, and sells as many systems as Mario is The Legend of Zelda.

Unlike Super Mario Bros. showing me what to do, the first time I played the Legend of Zelda I bypassed the nearest dungeon and went to one farther down the road. I had skipped a low-level dungeon, ended up in a mid-level dungeon, and got my butt kicked. Fast-forward over a decade into the future and I did the same thing in Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. You’d think twenty-something Kyle would’ve learned a lesson from ten-year-old Kyle. What I did learn is that the original Legend of Zelda was the first open-world RPG. The freedom to go anywhere in the world was exhilarating.

Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Fable (all open-world RPGs) wouldn’t exist without Legend of Zelda. The characters are iconic, but some may not care for the story. I can overlook the story’s repetition. Each Zelda game’s story may be the same, or similar, but there’s a reason for that. The Zelda franchise tells a legend. Each game shows a different person’s interpretation of that legend. On a meta-writing level, Legend of Zelda may have every other game beat.

Then consider Zelda’s other contributions to gaming. You couldn’t save games before the original Zelda. Folks take game saves for granted but without them, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Fable, and Mass Effect would be unplayable. The same can be said for any game that can’t be played in one sitting.

Stories didn’t sprawl before Zelda. Part of that comes from save games but most of it comes from the game’s storytelling. Zelda made games legendary with its colorful characters. Even the silent protagonist—a video game trope, I know—contributes to the game’s immersion. When people hear Shepard’s voice (male or female), they latch onto that actor’s interpretation. Link could be anyone. He could even be the player. Some of the best cross-players at conventions are women dressed as Link. When players discover a secret, hear that familiar chime, they believe they—not Link—accomplished something.

I could go on but let’s just say the Legend of Zelda has shaped role playing and action/adventure games. It’s worthy of the top spot.

Did we get our lists right? I’m sure we missed games like Minecraft, Dark Souls, Pokemon, Metal Gear, and Starcraft. Those just missed my list. Does Ico and Shadow of the Colossus count as a series? Man, there are a lot of great video game series. I probably picked the wrong ones. Let us know your favorites and which Top Five we should do next.

Thanks for reading.

Top 5 Overused Themes in Tabletop Games

Oh no, not another one of these games.

There are certain themes that get used time and time again in tabletop games to the point we want to scream, enough already. Okay, some of these themes are pretty good, so just because they’re on this list doesn’t mean I hate them; this is a list of themes that saturate the tabletop game market.

You can’t swing a backpack in a hobby game store without knocking a game with one of these themes off the shelf. (Note: don’t swing a backpack in a hobby game store.) I’m going to start with a couple of honorable mentions for this list because there’s an intellectual property that gets overused—and it doesn’t quite fit with the other themes on this list—and European games have their own overused theme that you don’t see too much of in North American games.

With that out of the way, let’s get to it.

Most Overused Intellectual Property

Star Wars

Star Wars

Prequels notwithstanding, I love Star Wars. It only makes this short list because there’s a Star Wars everything, and it’s going to get worse over the next few years. Carcassonne: Star Wars Edition? Yeah, there was one released this year, and it’s a good game. Risk: Star Wars? Ditto, but it’s not Risk. Risk: Star Wars has to make my list of worst names for a tabletop game. Casual gamers will see Risk and get disappointed it’s not Risk, while hard-core tabletop gamers will avoid the title because it has Risk in the title, when it’s a game designed for them: you’re working as a team to blow up the second Death Star. Awesome. If you search Star Wars board game (card game or collectable game) in Google, you’ll find hundreds of thousands of results, so it belongs on this list.

Most Overused Theme in European Games (Eurogames)

Eurogame Train Theme

Trains

I got back into tabletop gaming with Catan and Ticket to Ride. The latter is a train game, so I have a soft spot for a particular train game, but every time a new Eurogame comes out, there’s a fifty-fifty chance the theme will be trains. This time it’s different. This time you lay down plastic train tracks instead of train cars. In this other game, you push cubes, representing passengers, from one station to the next. This train game uses cards, while this other one uses dice so it’s completely different. North American game developers use familiar themes to rope in sales, but European game developers are just as guilty. Still, I like Ticket to Ride, Steam, and a handful of other tabletop games that focus on trains.

With those two themes out of the way let’s get to the game themes that did make the Top 5.

 

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5) Infiltrators (Spies and Hackers)

This theme isn’t as ubiquitous as the others on this list—that’s why it’s number five—but any game that features the hidden information game mechanism usually uses a spy, hacker, or similar theme. Spy and hacker games are fun and so is hidden information as a game mechanism, but we see a lot of these types of games and the theme is branching out into other game types (ones that don’t focus on hidden information). There are some amazing games that use this theme—Twilight Struggle is a great Cold War simulation game—but this theme gets overused.

 

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4) Superheroes

Say it ain’t so. Say it ain’t so. It’s so. I like superheroes and I like superhero games, but they’re everywhere. Are you making a collectible game of any persuasion (cards, dice, or miniatures)? You’ve got to have a superhero variant. Deck building games are popular, so we have multiple superhero versions of that game type. Even worker placement games, a game type used primarily by Eurogames, has a North American superhero version: Batman: the Strategy Game. Actually, Batman: the Strategy Game is a darn good worker placement game but it throws you off with its title: you’re playing as Batman’s rogues. There are a lot of good to great superhero games, but superhero games are Starbucks.

 

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3) Cthulhu

This is hard to admit but I like this theme too and it gets overused. Eldrich Horror, Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, Call of Cthulhu, Munchkin Cthulhu, and Cthulhu Dice are all good games—in their own way—but the fact that I can rattle off six successful titles with this theme means Cthulhu is overdone, and this success causes more game designers to come out with a new Cthulhu flavor each month. It’s almost as if tabletop games want to recite the ancient rites until the Old Gods return to Earth.

 

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2) High Fantasy

This theme almost doesn’t belong on this list, except that it does. I’ll try to make more sense. High fantasy shows up a lot in games (so it’s an overused theme), but it’s such a broad theme that it encompasses Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Dungeons and Dragons, the King Arthur mythos, and even Harry Potter. How many games have these themes? A lot. And there are more games that use a generic high fantasy theme in addition to these games. Remember that backpack you’re not supposed to swing in a hobby game store? Yeah, that backpack would knock over hundreds of high fantasy games. High fantasy, as a theme, physically shows up in tabletop games more often than any other theme, and yet it isn’t our number one.

 

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1) Zombies

Zombies, ugh. Zombies—like Star Wars starting off this list—have a new horde of games every month. They haven’t overtaken high fantasy as the number one used theme in games, but the reason zombies are atop this list (of overused themes) is that I could pick up any 50 high fantasy games and find 25 to 40 playable games—not good or great games, playable—and then I could pick up any 50 zombie games and find only 8 or 9 playable games. Warning: if a tabletop game has Walking Dead in the title, you should use it for kindling. Walking Dead games epitomize most tabletop games that use the zombie theme: they suck, and the designers don’t care. But there are some exceptions to this rule.

I can’t recommend Dead of Winter enough—it’s the best zombie themed game by far and better captures the feel of The Walking Dead—and there are a handful of other zombie game standouts (Zombie Dice for a light press your luck game, Last Night on Earth for a cinematic game, and Run, Fight or Die for an adrenaline kick) but for the most part, zombie game designers believe their customers are as brain dead as their subject matter.

Top 5 Tabletop Games that keep Game Stores in Business

This Top Five is a lot different than most Top Fives as I don’t necessarily like all the games on this list, and yet I’m thankful they exist. These games keep game stores in business by the sheer number of units they sell and by peaking folks’ interest in the hobby. You’ll see a trend early on, and it’s one tabletop games have used for several decades.

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5) Love Letter

Speaking of the trend used in most top-selling tabletop games, we’ll lead off with a game that uses other intellectual properties and/or pop culture references to remain relevant. Love Letter may be the youngest game on this list, but if you’ve stepped in a game store in the past month, you’ll find a shelf—or two—dedicated to Letters to Santa, Adventure Time Love Letter, The Hobbit Love Letter, Batman Love Letter, and of course, the original Love Letter.

Love Letter is inexpensive, quick to learn, easy to play, and has an interesting deduction game mechanism to it. While the original game has players determining which player is playing a particular royal, the other spin-offs provide enthusiasts with some fan service. Not all of the intellectual properties work well with Love Letter’s gameplay but Batman Love Letter stands out as a true winner because you’re deducing who everyone is, which is similar to Batman’s role, but you’re playing as one of Batman’s rogues. How awesome is that?

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4) Fluxx

As the name implies Fluxx is the ever-changing card game. Fluxx changes with each passing round—heck, with each passing turn—and you’ll never know how or what will lead you to victory. Like Love Letter, Fluxx re-themes the game to match various intellectual properties and pop culture references—I told you this was a popular ploy to keep a game relevant—but Fluxx has been in production a lot longer than Love Letter, so you’ll see numerous versions.

Batman, Adventure Time, Pirate, Zombie, Cthulhu, Holiday, Regular Show, Wizard of Oz, Firefly, Stoner, Eco, and Cartoon Network versions of Fluxx (among countless others) exist, but for my money Monty Python Fluxx is the best of the pop culture re-themes, and it’s not just because I’m a Monty Python fan. Fluxx’s rules lead to some zany changes to the game and while Adventure Time and Regular Show make good use of these rules, nothing beats the off-the-wall humor of Monty Python.

I may not play Fluxx as often as I once did but when I do, I play Monty Python Fluxx.

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3) Monopoly

I’ve been on record as saying I’m not the biggest Monopoly fan, but you can’t deny the power of Monopoly. It’s the board game people who aren’t into the tabletop hobby think of first when they think of board games and it single-handedly keeps retail store board game sections in existence.

I don’t know how many copies of Monopoly hobby game stores move on an annual basis but the number must be high, and I don’t have to tell folks that Monopoly started the trend of re-theming itself with various pop culture references to stay relevant. I will say that despite my aversion to Monopoly, I do own a copy of the game and will play it if someone really wants to, but I usually play with alternate rules. I won’t name them all but here are two of the best ways to speed up Monopoly’s 3-24 hour game time: auction off most (or all) of the properties before the first person rolls the dice, and roll one die instead of two.

An auction mitigates some of Monopoly’s luck, adding more strategy and skill to the game. I insist on auctioning some of the properties whenever I play Monopoly, but I’d be down with only auctioning a third or so of the properties because auctions can take a while too. I also like rolling one die instead of two because turns don’t last as long, folks don’t gobble up more than one property on a turn (because they landed on multiple spaces due to two or three doubles in a row), and players will land on more properties, which speeds up the end game. I may not start with rolling only one die, but after an hour, I want someone to land on Boardwalk or Park Place and pay its owner, even if that someone’s me.

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2) Munchkin

Munchkin is another game I liked when it first came out but some long game sessions soured me on the title. Players spend three to four hours crapping on the leader. I’m sorry, but an hour is my limit for a simple card game, and Munchkin is a simple card game. Still, you can’t enter a game store without seeing shelves of Munchkin and its abundant re-themes. Like every other game on this list (so far), Munchkin uses pop culture references and other intellectual properties to stay relevant, but Munchkin may do this better than any other game. Despite its flaws, Munchkin helps to keep game stores in business.

I won’t go into the various themes Munchkin uses, but let’s say if you’re into anything—and I mean anything—you’ll find a version of Munchkin for you. I still own a few versions of this game and still play it on occasion. My favorite is Munchkin Cthulhu. Not only am I partial to the Cthulhu mythos, Munchkin Cthulhu has more game mechanisms to lessen the effects of players crapping on the leader, which leads to faster gameplay and a more enjoyable experience, but I can’t begrudge someone who wants to play The Good, The Bad, and The Munchkin, Munchkin Apocalypse, or any other version.

Munchkin’s artwork is quirky and each one of its titles pokes fun at the pop culture reference it appropriates. You can’t get too mad at a game that’s meant to be silly; that’s another common theme on this list.

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1) Magic: the Gathering

Some hobby game stores only sell Magic, and they make a killing. It’s hard to fathom a game over twenty-years-old that doesn’t use the gimmick of re-theming itself every few weeks to stay on top, but Magic hasn’t changed that much and remains one of the highest grossing games every year.

Okay, Magic has shaken up its game play but it’s done so incrementally, adding new game features and ways in which to play the game over the past decade or so. Folks who remember when Magic was first released may not think of Magic as this dominant today. If you turned on ESPN in the mid-nineties, you could watch Magic tournaments. The World Series of Poker has taken Magic’s place and that should tell you something. Only a game invented in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century could overtake Magic on the most watched sports network.

Magic may be past its glory days, but it still dominants the collectible card game market and keeps plenty of hobby game stores afloat.

Top 5 Comic Book Movies

Biff! Bam! Ker-Sploosh! Adaptations of comic books slap the summer blockbuster movie windshield like so many bug guts. We can’t get enough of them, love ‘em to death, but which comic book flick has left the biggest mark? I mean, which comic book movie is the best of all time?

Importance will play a role, but we don’t want to get too hung up on ceremony. We’d rather have movies on this list that we can watch more than once. Sure, we’ll have some older films, but those oldies must stand the test of time. In short, they must be good.

We’ll limit the movies to one per franchise, that way we won’t get a list of nothing but Superman. If you haven’t seen Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, you should. It’s pure comedic gold.

We’re also only including franchises that originated in comic books, so no Incredibles. Incidentally, I’d pick the Incredibles as my number one super hero movie: it’s the Fantastic Four done right. This was a tough list to make because there are a lot of movies to take into consideration and some just barely missed the list. Too bad we don’t make top tens.

Without further ado, here’s our top five comic book movies.

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5) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

What? How dare we put Winter Soldier at number five? Don’t we know that countless critics have dubbed it the greatest comic book movie of all time?

Yeah, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is great, that’s why it made our list, but there are four other movies we liked more. The second Cap movie has some flaws – gasp – and that’s why it’s at our five spot but let’s discuss what it did well first.

  • The acting was great
  • Ditto for the direction
  • It dived into the characters
  • Global changes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe
  • It took risks
  • It’s the MCU’s The Empire Strikes Back

We don’t want to get too negative – this is a Top Five list – but we’ll share why Winter Soldier’s this far on the list. It leans too much on one comic book cliché: characters returning from the dead.

  • Protagonist (Cap): defrosted two movies prior
  • Antagonist (Winter Soldier): the power science
  • Hydra took over SHIELD: mostly because a Hydra scientist’s mind was uploaded into a super computer
  • Nick Fury turns the tide: Fury faked his death for strategic advantage

Winter Soldier abused this cliché so much that when a character died in Avengers: Age of Ultron, fans asked Joss Whedon how the character in question would return from the dead.

On a more personal note, I make three kinds of lemonade before watching Winter Soldier and I drink a different type each time someone returns from the dead. It’s a great game and yet the movie still holds up, and it follows the Winter Soldier story arc in the comics to the letter.

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4) Superman (1978)

You will believe a man can fly. That tagline was epic and Superman delivered on that promise. Sure, it’s dated, and Christopher Reeve’s costume is straight up seventies, but you can’t beat the elegance of this film. It’s Superman at his truest and purest, and the symbol on his chest doesn’t stand for hope.

Sure, the scene where Supes turns back time by reversing the Earth’s rotation makes no sense (Superman would’ve killed everyone on Earth by pulling a stunt like that), and we could’ve gone with Superman 2, which was just as fun, but nothing beats the original.

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3) Guardians of the Galaxy

This one came out of nowhere. I think the fact that not many knew of or had expectations for Guardians of the Galaxy helped it become the breakout hit of 2014. We had no idea who these people or places were, so Guardians set the ground work with a compelling narrative. The cast was perfect. The writing stellar. Heck, we even got one of the greatest soundtracks for a movie in years. Who didn’t want their own copy of The Awesome Mix volumes one and two?

Guardians did tap the anime trope of “the power of friendship conquers all,” but it worked for these characters. The guardians didn’t get along so well for the majority of the movie and Guardians spent plenty of time deconstructing – and making fun of – other tropes and clichés. Plus, it has a gun-toting raccoon.

We are Groot. That is all.

ComicBookMovieNumberTwoMenInBlack1997

2) Men in Black

Yes, Men in Black was a comic book before it became a movie and for those of you keeping score, it’s also the third Marvel movie on this list. Okay. Men in Black was part of Marvel’s Malibu Comics imprint, but that’s semantics.

We were out of this world for the third movie on our list and we stay out of this world with MiB. Men in Black gave Guardians of the Galaxy the blueprint for fusing comedy with intergalactic action, but it added a buddy cop element to the mix. We haven’t seen two cops this entertaining since Lethal Weapon, and we haven’t seen one as funny as MiB until Hot Fuzz.

Men in Black came close to earning our top spot, but it came just short of another classic comic book movie.

ComicBookMovieNumberOneBatman1989

1) Batman (1989)

This is the film that started the comic book movie craze. No one wanted to touch tights and spandex after Christopher Reeve prior to Batman, and Michael Keaton may still be the one actor who truly captured Bruce Wayne – besides Batman: The Animated Series’ Kevin Conroy.

We know we’ll catch flak from Christian Bale lovers. We love Bale’s portrayal of the Dark Knight too, even though he sounded like he needed a throat lozenge, and Heath Ledger gave us an Oscar-worthy performance as the Joker, but 1989’s Batman nailed the Caped Crusader. Any Tim Burton movie that makes you forget that Tim Burton directed it deserves our top spot. Batman honored the source material.

Did we get our list right? Let us know and give us more ideas for future Top Fives.

Top 5 Sentinels of the Multiverse Villains

Okay, this list may be a misnomer. I guess I should call it the Top 5 Worst Sentinels of the Multiverse Villains or the Top 5 Sentinels of the Multiverse Villains not to play on your first game.

These are the baddies that you don’t want to stumble upon in a dark alley, and unlike our Top 5 Sentinels of the Multiverse Heroes list, we’ll allow for more than one villain from a single expansion, so let’s see which expansion has the nastiest villains.

A couple of notes, I didn’t include any villains from the Vengeance expansion as they have to be played together to function properly and I just opened my copy of Wraith of the Cosmos, so I haven’t had a chance to play those nefarious villains. But with no further ado, here we go.

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5) Grand Warlord Voss

Grand Warlord Voss is the only villain from the base game to make our list but he’s a great place to start a Top 5. He combines the worst parts of Citizen Dawn (minions galore) and Baron Blood (nasty weapons) and throws in a win condition of “If he gets 10 or more minions in play, he wins the game.”

It’s not as if you’d want more than three of Voss’s minions in play, but it stinks when you automatically lose the game if he gets 10 of them on the table. That makes one tough Sentinel’s villain.

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4) The Chairman

The Chairman comes from The Sentinels of the Multiverse’s first expansion, Rook City, and is actually two villains in one—or maybe more than two villains. As a result, I had a difficult time placing The Chairman. He’s not particularly hard or complicated, but you have to defeat The Operative before you can deal any damage to him.

Underbosses and henchmen make matters worse and they can distract you from dealing any damage to The Operative which in turn, drives you nutty as you enter a cycle of taking a licking, drawing more henchmen and underbosses, and failing to deal any damage to The Chairman himself.

With The Chairman, you’re not facing a villain as much as you’re taking on The Organization. I’m thinking this won’t be the last time we’ll see a villain team on this list.

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3) The Ennead

Oh, look what we have here: another villain team. The Ennead blazed onto the Sentinels of the Multiverse scene with the second expansion, Infernal Relics, and we’ve been cursing Greater Than Games ever since. Sorry, guys. We love you.

The Ennead plays like a hydra and good luck with chopping off enough of the hydra’s heads. Even when you do take down one of the ten villains, they grant powers to their teammates, so they can hurt you from the beyond.

Not to worry. We gave you a sequence with which to defeat these baddies in our Guide to the Sentinels (here’s a link), so you can improve your chances of beating these Egyptian gods but just because you have a blueprint, doesn’t mean you’ll beat these guys. Did I mention that there’s ten of them? Ten!

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2) Iron Legacy

I don’t even know where to start with Iron Legacy. He’s tough.

He comes from the third expansion, Shattered Timelines, and can take out a team of heroes in ten minutes or less. Seriously, I ordered a pizza before we started playing against him and we got our butts handed to us twice before the delivery guy showed up, but the key to defeating him might be the opposite of The Ennead (at three on our list). You may want to enlist heroes for their incapacitated (knocked-out) side, so you’ll gain the abilities they give their teammates.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll stay alive long enough to deal some damage, but under no circumstance do you want to play as any of Iron Legacy’s nemeses. Tachyon, Absolute Zero, Tempest, The Wraith, Unity, and Bunker receive additional damage with each of Iron Legacy’s deadly attacks. On the positive side, you could play those heroes and finish five games before the pizza got to your house.

You’re probably wondering which villain could possibly top Iron Legacy and believe me, there is one.

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1) The Matriarch

Rook City was filled with hero hate. The environments were brutal, the heroes weren’t as supercharged, and the villains kicked some tail. The Chairman (The Organization) already made our list at the four spot, but The Matriarch sits atop her perch as our number one Sentinels of the Multiverse villain.

She plays her entire deck in two to three turns. No fooling. She literally plays her entire deck in two or three turns—sometimes in a single turn. With that many cards on the table, The Matriarch chokes the battlefield, making it almost impossible to beat her.

Furthermore, she has abilities that negate the awesome abilities of even the most daring global hero effect. I don’t know how it’s possible, but The Matriarch hasn’t gotten much easier with future releases: she was introduced in the first expansion.

We mentioned a potential way to defeat her in our Matriarch Spotlight, but defeating her usually comes down to dumb luck.

Did we get the list right? Let us know how we did and feel free to give us more ideas for future Top Fives.

Top 5 TV Shows for April 2015

We had another odd month of TV in April. Bob’s Burgers was off the air, Powers continued to fluctuate between good and I can’t watch this, and iZombie introduced its love interest—and I’m not a big fan of that arc.

As a result, those three shows didn’t make our list but we have five others that met the challenge – for the most part – and we saw a couple of resurgences and a couple of new faces. That’s enough about the also ran shows, let’s get to our Top 5 RV shows for April, 2015.

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5) Arrow

Oddly enough, Arrow makes it on our list because even though they haven’t been consistent, they’re a lot more consistent than the three shows that just missed the cut. I could exchange five and four – and have a couple of times – and I wouldn’t feel too bad about doing so, but Arrow starts off our list because of its inconsistency all year.

We’re also awarding Team Arrow’s risk-taking. They may or may not have written themselves into a corner but they’re coming out swinging and that should make for an interesting season finale.

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4) Grimm

Grimm edges out Arrow again this month but by the narrowest of margins. Nick and company haven’t had the best track record for the month of April either but their ongoing story arcs solidify the four spot here. Their season finale is also more of a sure thing – as in they should have more a workable and coherent ending to their season – than the man in the hood.

Grimm should watch its back. Arrow could zip pass them next month, should Arrow deliver a memorable finale—and that’s something Arrow does well.

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3) The Flash

The Flash dropped from our top spot last month, but it didn’t fall too far. It lands at our third spot because, like so many of the other shows on our list, it wasn’t consistent. The Flash’s last two weeks were solid and propelled the season to its finale but the two episodes at the beginning of last month didn’t fare as well. Hopefully, The Flash will ride its newfound momentum to a great finish.

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2) Orphan Black

Orphan Black made its triumphant return this month. The acting, direction, and writing are still firing on all cylinders. I was skeptical of the newly introduced male clones and how they’d fit in this world but they’ve integrated well and I’m surprised Orphan Black didn’t get our top spot. But there’s one show that topped it.

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1) Daredevil

There’s no doubt that Daredevil should earn top honors this month. Daredevil is to Netflix what Final Fantasy VII was to the original Playstation. If you didn’t buy the device/service yet, this is your reason to do it.

The action sequences are rawer than anything you’ll see on any other channel. You can feel Matt Murdoch fighting twelve people in the single shot hallway scene. It’s not pretty but taking on twelve people at once isn’t pretty. The acting’s fantastic; each character was three dimensional, not your typical flat stereotypes. I was on the fence about making Kingpin, a villain that barely qualifies as human in the comics, sympathetic but Vincent D’Onofrio brought the character to life. And if this is what we can expect from the marriage between Netflix, Marvel, and ABC Studios, bring on the rest of the Defenders.

Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage already have series planned for later this year and early next year and Punisher just got added to the mix. I can’t wait.

For those of you who don’t have Netflix, here’s the intro for Daredevil. It’s haunting and a warning that there will be blood. Yes, there’s plenty of blood but the blood serves as a reminder of Matt Murdoch’s dangerous world. He won’t escape too many fights without a few scrapes.

Top 5 TV Shows: March 2015

March was another strange month for television. We had a lot of shows on hiatus, Community and Powers debuted on two outlets that were new to original programming (Yahoo! And Playstation Network, respectfully), and when our ongoing shows came back from their breaks, many had shaky returns.

With that said, I knew which five shows deserved to make the list—sorry, Arrow—but I had a difficult time determining the order. Heck, I might change the order while I write this.

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5) Grimm

Grimm, playing keep away from Arrow, maintained its top five status, from last month. I still can’t get on board with some of the weekly Wesen this month, but the ongoing story arcs have held my attention—for the most part. We’ll see what happens in April.

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4) Bob’s Burgers

Any of these next four could’ve been my number one, but I’m going with Bob’s Burgers at the four spot for three reasons. 1) I believe it’ll rise again. 2) It had a strong first two weeks of March and then waned. 3) It went on yet another break—ugh.

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3) Powers

Powers started off slowly but picked up steam after its third episode. It also suffered from poor acting chemistry and overcame that by rarely putting the struggling actors together in scenes. I’ve never seen a show deploy such a tactic, but it works. I also worry about how the show plans to move forward, now that their big baddy’s locked up again, but Powers had a strong March and it would have been higher had they not had so many poor episodes in the early going.

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2) Archer

I didn’t know where to place Archer and it lands on our two spot because I caught up with the series this month. Archer’s season as a whole has been great and deserves to claim the top spot, but its March fell a couple of notches. Still, Sterling, Lana, and the gang delivered enough laughs to almost take top honors.

March2015NumberOneTVShowTheFlash

1) The Flash

It’s been a long time coming, but The Flash finally tops our list. The Flash has had a stellar first season, but it fell victim to the Ides of March. It had a lot of fireworks, but most of those grandstanding moments didn’t amount to much. The tension got ratcheted to a hundred, and then dialed back, and then amped again, but all we’re left with is the Barry-Iris love disconnect, which I don’t care for, and Barry turning on Harrison Wells. Despite these shortcomings, The Flash had a couple of dynamite episodes in March and those propelled it to number one.