Board Game Review: Sheriff of Nottingham

This week’s featured review is all about Sheriff of Nottingham, a great board game released in 2014.

Described by the makers as “a social game of bluffing, bribery and negotiation” – I can attest to the fact this game requires you to lie, often. The results are often hysterical, especially when playing with the table rule of mandatory British cockney accents.

The game play is pretty straight forward. Each player is trying to transport their goods through Sherwood forest to market. Each round, a different player in the group acts as the Sheriff, whose job it is to inspect the goods being transported. You receive goods by drawing them from either the stack o’ goods or from the discard pile. Then, each round, you place goods in a small felt pouch and toss it in the center, declaring what you’re transporting across the border.

The deception comes in the fact players can only transport one type of good at a time. If the Sheriff decides to open and inspect your pouch, and you lied about its contents, you pay penalty fees. If you were honest, the Sheriff pays you a penalty fee. For example, if you decide to transport three cheese cards across the border, you would say “Three cheese.” If the Sheriff inspects your goods and finds the three cheese, he pays you a penalty per cheese. However, if you say “Three cheese” and really put two cheese and an apple card, you would pay the Sheriff a fee for the apples.

The game also has contraband cards, which are ALWAYS illegal to declare/transport. They have higher fines if caught, but they are worth the most gold.

You can bribe the Sheriff with gold, goods you’ve already transported to market, in-game favors or what may be in the pouch. If you make a promise that can be immediately resolved (ex: giving the Sheriff three gold and two wheels of cheese you sold at market) you must follow through. If you promise something in the future (ex: they get a specific type of good that may/may not be in the pouch or you won’t inspect them when you’re Sheriff) you are not required to honor the deal.

After every player has acted as Sheriff twice, the game is over. There are bonus gold rewards for transporting the most chickens, bread, apples and cheese across the board. Count up your total wealth between your gold and any goods successfully sold at market, including contraband – richest player wins.

The wheeling and dealing is dynamic fun, and the game play is fast. The moment that the Sheriff is holding a mystery bundle, evaluating whether or not to inspect the goods is fraught with tension. I love this game and if you’ve got a particularly good humored play group, it’s screamingly funny.

Maybe not the best game for some gamers who take a very long time to make the most analytical decisions possible… but for someone who loves to have a raucous time with friends? PERFECT.

– E.B.

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Review – Velocity 2X

This week’s featured review is Futurlab‘s Velocity 2x for PlayStation systems.

As a member of the PlayStation Plus Network, I receive two free downloadable PS4 titles every month. This month, I downloaded Velocity 2X on a whim and was totally blown away. Since I had heard nothing about the game previously and it was a free download, I assumed it was a sub-par indie title. Boy was I wrong!

Basic Plot Synopsis: The sequel to Velocity Ultra (which I have not played) this game is a shoot ’em up extravaganza. While most games in this genre lack substantial plot, FuturLab clearly tried to craft a worthwhile narrative around their slick mechanics. Players assume the role of Lt. Kai Tana, who wakes up after a horrific accident to discover her body is now cybernetically enhanced. Tana is desperate to return to her ship, so she teams up with fellow prisoner, alien Hjun Ralan III. Together, the two work to defeat the murderous Vokh species so Kai Tana can return home.

Velocity 2X on PS4 and PS Vita

My Thoughts: Velocity 2X seamlessly integrates vertical scrolling and side-scrolling action. Whether you are piloting a spaceship or running around as Tana herself, your main objective is to blow up everything you possibly can. Speed is integral to winning and the game play lends itself to a fast, smooth, controlled yet chaotic style. Thanks to teleport abilities, even the vertical scrolling sections require a dynamic horizontal and tactic movement. This variety keeps Velocity 2X feeling fresh and distinguishes it from other titles in the genre.

When you play a level, there is a strong sense of rhythm. The more you play, the more you feel the pulse of the game, allowing you to more gracefully navigate the levels. There are a few puzzle-based objectives in every section, adding variance to the cadence of a play session and preventing the player from just “going on automatic.”

The transition from spaceship to on-foot action is fluid and natural. The game slowly adjusts the players to the switch throughout the first few levels. After ten minutes, the on-foot sections feel like natural extensions of the game, and offer a greater sense of atmosphere. The visual design of the game is modern and aesthetically appealing. The bright lights against the crisp graphics and sharp illustrated 2D cut scenes give the game a sense of refined visual polish.

It wouldn’t be a shoot ’em up without boss battles and Velocity 2X delivers. Forcing players to utilize all of their various mechanics, the bosses pose threatening tactical problems instead of just being gigantic damage sponges. It is much more enjoyable to fear for you life in completely totality for a few brief minutes than slog through a half an hour of punch-and-hide game play seen in most genre boss fights. I am a big fan of how Futurlab address this hallmark of the genre.

With 50 stages, the game goes by surprisingly fast. However, with so many components to achieving a perfect score there’s a lot of replay value. If you have PlayStation Plus, you MUST download this title. If you aren’t a Plus member, still consider giving it a purchase, even if shoot ’em ups are not your thing. They’re not mine, but I am definitely a fan of Velocity 2X.

– E.B.

Fetchlands Revisited in Khans of Tarkir

In Magic: The Gathering, there are always cards termed “chase rares” – essential rare cards that any self-respecting Magic player wants to put in their deck. For years now, the Fetch land cards printed in the Onslaught and Zendikar blocks have been considered staples in the game and are priced as such. They allow you to pay one life and go looking through your deck for the appropriate land, making them invaluable for their provision of mana consistency. For example, Arid Mesa, a red/white Fetch land, is currently priced at $30 per card on TCGPlayer. A deck that uses a full play set of these (and who the heck wouldn’t) is already $120 for just four cards.

So you can imagine the collectors’ fury (yet Magic players’ rejoicing) at the news that Wizards is reprinting the Fetch lands in their new set. According to Mythic Spoiler, Khans of Tarkir will see a reprint of these choice land cards. Considering the set also appears to feature tri-color land in enemy wedge colors and Theros offered Mana Confluence, this next rotation of Magic promises to have lots of land silliness.

As far as the value depreciation of the Fetch lands, there continues to be a good deal of speculation. Obviously, the time where choice Fetch land cards could possibly command a $100 price tag (looking at you Scalding Tarn) is dead and gone. Likewise, it’s obvious that this is a tactical move to get Magic players back into the Standard format, or at least buying Standard block cards. Given the increasing popularity of older formats, which are less directly lucrative for Wizards of the Coast, it makes sense.

Overall, this announcement has increased my excitement for the new set. It looks like Khans will be a faster format than Theros, which makes my aggro-style loving heart very happy.

– E.B.

Gems of GenCon

GenCon 2014 was a fabulous experience. The con was brimming with great people, amateur films, swag and lots and lots of games! Gaming giant, Wizards of the Coast, was there in full force, with the completed launch of Dungeons and Dragons 5E and an entire exhibit hall dedicated to Magic: The Gathering. Competitor Fantasy Flight Games had a great show too, with a massive plot of real estate in the main show room. Their play space and shop were busting with people every day, and by Sunday they had sold out of the majority of their retail.

Still, the best part about GenCon is the way indie games and Kickstarter projects can shine. There’s room for everyone at the con, and you can practically feel the enthusiasm permeating the Convention Center.

Today’s post is a collection of some of my favorite finds this year. Throughout the rest of the week, there will be more in-depth articles about specific games, movies and features. Get psyched!

Gems of GenCon:

Indie Game Delight: Iron & Ale is a card based drinking game from Table Forged LLC. Funded through Kickstarter, the game revolves around each player assuming the role of a Dwarven Lord/Lady. Then, you do what all dwarves love to do: mine for gold, fight and drink. Players complete Mountain challenges and Meadhall challenges for “honor” – player with the most honor wins. The Meadhall challenges are where the game rewards players for belching, cursing, arm wrestling and dancing like dwarves – failure results in a drink penalty. It is loads of fun, with or without alcohol, and these guys sold out in the first days of the con.

Wonderfully Ridiculous Short: Qunitipus is the story of a hand shaped alien rebel fighter-pilot who crash lands on Earth. Now, you might think that watching a film of a hand walking around the Earth would be terrible, but this was one of my favorite films at the GenCon film fest. The hand, performed by Chris Murdoch, is so surprisingly expressive, you actually get the sense of a narrative and action. It sounds weird, but trust me, if it’s at a con near you, you should watch it.

Surprisingly Innovative Game Demo: Golem Arcana. This latest concoction from Harebrained Schemes was very popular, with some of the most enthusiastic demo players on the show floor. Look for a special feature from the private demo I had with game maker Mitch Gitelman on Thursday. This game has the potential to shake things up in the table top world for years to come. I’m very excited about it.

Most Niche Retail Booth: Yes, thanks to Doctor Who, the resurgence of the fez hat has gripped the nerd world in its velvety claws. Fez-O-Rama had hats for every nerd, from dice rollers to Lovecraftians. It was fun to try on these hats and the custom options were very cool. These folks also get props on presentation as this was one of the best looking booths at the con.

Wonder Woman Princess!Cutest Cosplay: I am totally bias, but this Wonder Woman princess cosplay was the most adorable thing I saw at GenCon. She was a sweet kid, when I asked her (and her mother) if I could get a picture she immediately struck the classic crossed arms pose. Proof it’s important to have female superheroes in the media! Give this girl her Wonder Woman movie! (Okay, soapbox moment over.)

I hope you enjoyed this little round up. If you’ve never been to GenCon, and you love board games, you must get there in the coming years. Look forward for more content in days to come.

– E.B.

8-Bit Gaming in Your Browser

Have you ever gotten the hankering for playing those old school, 8-bit classic style video games? There are always ROM emulators, but sometimes you can’t find a ROM file that works for your computer or you might be somewhere you can’t run a full application.

Cue, 8BBIT – an online library that hosts all of the great, classic titles you might remember from childhood. The best part is they play right in your browser, so no installation is required! They have some delightfully obscure titles, like Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dragons of Flame or The Adventures of Dino Riki. Also, they have a large number of Japanese video games, but most of the titles lack translation. Still, the games are fun, even if the back story eludes you.

Anyways, it’s a great way to kill some time and educate yourself on the history of gaming. Check it out here: 8BBIT

– E.B.

Featured Art(ists) – The Remenar Twins

This week’s featured art(ists) post stars Valentina and Marina Remenar.

Valentina and Marina Remenar (similar to the previously mentioned Satruns) are twin sister artists based out of Slovenia. Both sisters have had their work featured in various places on the internet, including the Daily Devation shown above. When I do write ups on these sibling pairings, I just want to scream because there is SO much talent in a single family! Jeez.

These sisters are some of the most digitally present artists I’ve seen on the internet. They post work in progress videos and paintings/drawings/illustrations with great regularity. They also post work on Twitter, Tumblr, DeviantArt and yes, Google+. Much of the work is fantasy or sci-fantasy in theme, so that’s right up my nerd-tastic alley. Their costume and weapon design for characters has a fresh feel – imaginative but sophisticated.

The Remenars are currently working as artists for the indie action RPG, Amaranthine Story. The project is currently fundraising for development – check out their Facebook page and consider sponsoring them on Indiegogo.

Not only are their character illustrations gorgeous, but their scenic work is also stunning. It’s hard to believe these women are only 21 years old, given the magnificent texture work and fine detail. They have an extensive gallery of gorgeous manga and manga-inspired art as well. In addition, the Remenars have created some great tutorials for artists interested in digital painting, particularly in an anime/manga style. I highly encourage you to look through their portfolio and gallery – there’s such great work.

– E.B.