Archive | February 2016

Discovering New Card Games – Boss Monster

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I keep telling myself that I’m going to stop buying new card games. There are only so many rule sets one can remember and better to practice a few than to be mediocre at a lot. I’m already at that point where I’m always having to ask, what’s the starting hand size for this one again? How many cards can I draw out? Yet I can’t help myself as I browse through the games, so many of them stand out to me. My latest addition is Boss Monster.

Boss Monster is inspired by retro video games, and you get to play the villain. Each player builds a dungeon out of a selection of room cards, and compete to attract new heroes with treasure. You earn points by dealing out enough damage to kill the hero; failure to do so can result in taking wounds, five of which will end the game for you. There are also spell cards that can be played during build and adventure phases to help tilt the odds in your favour.

Boss Monster is everything that I love to have in a card game. The rules are simple and quick to learn (see for yourself at http://brotherwisegames.com/rules/) and yet repeated play reveals further complexities. There is enough randomness to bring surprises to each game, but also enough strategy that you feel like you have some level of control over the outcome. Most of the games have been excitingly close. In card games it’s not fun if you get an unlucky hand and feel like all is lost before you’ve even begun, but Boss Monster contains enough cards to allow the tables to turn very quickly. For example, one of the heroes is called the fool; they’re easy to take down and go to the dungeon with the least points. Some spells allow you to remove wounds or resurrect heroes with more HP from an opponents score keeping area. During my last game I found myself with only a couple of points while the opponent needed just one more to win, and yet somehow I managed to pull through in the end. The only major flaw I’ve noticed is that if a players receives five wounds they have to sit out for the remainder of the game, although luckily they only last around 30 minutes. (See my post ‘Competitive Games – Keep Them Close And Short.‘) I will also drop in a caution, that this game could potentially break friendships as some abilities can completely obliterate your plans.

So far every game we’ve had has revealed new and exciting ways to win. There are also expansions and a Boss Monster 2 available, although we haven’t yet felt ready to move onto them (some of the cards look quite cruel.) There is a Boss Monster app that is free to start (pay for expansions) if you fancy giving it a go. I do prefer to play the physical copy of card games, but having the game enforce its own rules can help when learning how to play (There’s the odd card where the rules are ambiguous and we spotted one with a mistake in the description.) Overall the game feels very well balanced. The artwork is also of a good quality, in-keeping with the fun theme.

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Goosebumps Nostalgia

My mum enjoys reading books by authors such as James Herbert and Stephen King. My older sister use to collect Goosebumps by R.L.Stine, Shivers by M.D.Spenser and eventually moved onto point horror. Naturally, I was drawn towards giving horror stories a go myself and Goosbumps was where I started. My reading skills weren’t actually good enough at first, but having an older sibling means that you get a preview of what’s to come before you’re old enough to tackle it yourself. The covers with that bright bubbly goo attracted my attention. My first one was Monster Blood, because the hamster stood out to me. Once I was able to read them comfortably I was hooked and my sister and I enjoyed collecting them together. We avidly watched the show too.

So when I heard there was going to be a Goosebump’s film I was overjoyed. Admittedly I wasn’t expecting much from it, but just a revisit to the nostalgia of my childhood was exciting enough. I’d made the assumption that it was going to be childish and cheesy, although such films have never made sense to me as I’m not sure if they’re still popular with kids today and the rest of us have grown up (I imagine there were many other adults like myself eager to see this for the same reason.) Luckily I was wrong and Goosebumps turned out to be a highly entertaining film. There’s a lot of comedy in it that can appeal to adults as well as kids. There was no point at which I felt out of place being there, and as I looked around I noticed there were lots of other adults enjoying it too. The references were fun, bringing me back to the roots of what got me into the horror genre in the first place.

The film doesn’t focus on just one story, but on a collection of R.L.Stine’s monsters. They become freed from the pages of the manuscripts and start to wreak havoc, with Slappy the dummy as their leader. This creates the opportunity to re-visit a lot of our favourites. Some monsters seemed to get more screen time than others and I would have liked a bit more variety than what was shown. The first few encounters didn’t feel like they fit in too well, as they saw one monster at a time sequentially. Eventually more of the monsters are shown on screen working together. I guess one of the issues with trying to fit so much into one film is that while there’s a greater chance of seeing our favourites, we don’t get to see many of the distinctive qualities that made them special. Each monster overall feels similar in terms of threat, just with a different appearance. The encounters are fun, but Slappy is really the main star of the film. Luckily I was a fan of the Night of The Living Dummy and it felt right for him to take centre stage.

The actors in this film also put on a great performance. Jack Black is brilliant as R.L.Stine, a role he takes with a lot of humour. The main protagonists are also very likeable, despite all of their shortcomings. We see some depth and character growth throughout the film. I also loved the cameo from R.L.Stine at the end, who I was fond to see again after all the introductions he made during the show.

Overall the Goosebumps film was a fun nostalgic trip that didn’t disappoint. It might not appeal if you haven’t read the books, but for any person that grew up on horror stories this is very much recommended.

Celebrate The Small Things: 5 February

One of my friends mentioned that he was helping to test websites for a bit of extra cash on the side. It got me thinking that perhaps it’s something that I can look into, as seen as I have an interest in website design anyway. It turns out that most website testing is done by recording your screen and talking while you follow so many tasks. This allows them to see exactly how a user thinks and they can spot flaws if they struggle to complete any of the tasks. I’ve only signed up to a couple of websites for now, What Users Do and User Testing. You have to do a practice test before being accepted, and as I was nervous for these first attempts I thought I’d done a really bad job of this. They also said that it could take a few days, weeks or even months to hear back. Well the next day both websites had accepted me and I got to do a couple of real tests too. It’s actually really fun to do and I’m hoping it’ll help to build my confidence. It’s fulfilling feeling like you might be helping to improve these websites too.

I had some spare time this week so I made sure to catch up with a friend. We got a Don’t Starve Together game going, although we haven’t done very well at this so far. He’s been really into writing lately (apparently I inspired him after taking a creative writing course) and had an idea to start one of those stories where you take it in turns to write. It sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun and it’s a joy to see him so creatively excited. I bought some new game inspired music too, and got more than I was expecting for what I paid – http://alexroe.bandcamp.com/ it’s very good.

With everything that’s been going on, such as hospital visits and work I haven’t been able to spend any quality time with my boyfriend recently. Thankfully he’s booked most of this month off, starting from now, and so it should be a nice break for us both as well as making it easier to deal with the way things are right now. I’m so glad it’s the end of the week so we can relax for a bit tonight.

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Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

Playing A Game The Way The Developer Intended

A lot of games include settings or are easy to mod to allow us to create an experience to suit our needs. These games are considered to be more user-friendly. We can develop set ideas for what good usability is; When I think about it I imagine a game with great tutorials, clear goals/directions and lots of settings. However, we can confuse usability with other features, such as difficulty (see ‘The Usability of Bloodborne‘ on Player Research.) Some games limit the number of settings we have, as if the developer is telling us to play it their way or no way at all. This can alienate some, but I think there are times when it can be justified.

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My First Attempt At Don’t Starve Adventure Mode

Adventure mode is where the story of Don’t Starve happens and how to complete the game. You can unlock the characters Wes and Maxwell during this mode as well. You have to get through five missions in total, each one with its own set of challenges. The order of these missions is random, although the fifth one is always Darkness. During a mission you have to use the divining rod to help you to locate four different items that can then be assembled on a wooded platform, creating a teleportato that can take you to the next mission. Four items can be taken with you; The current state of your character along with researched prototypes also continue through. If you die you have to start over again from mission one.

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