Friday, 30 September 2011

Uncharted review

Beware of spoilers!

Back in January, I got a PS3. I could have been happier, as from a few years prior my gaming consisted of WOW and the odd DS or Wii game. The console seemed to have little to offer other than a few games such as FFXIII. Yet barely half a year has passed and my library already exceeds fifteen games, and I have played more. How wrong I was. And one of the top stand outs? Uncharted.

I heard it was good, but never thought to try it until I traded in Portal 2 and had a fair sum of credit from it, so went to the 3 for 2 section and got Uncharted 1, 2 and Darksiders. I am very glad for that decision. The series is fantastic.

You play Nathan Drake, a man of many talents. The most appropriate, if a bit misleading, description for him is treasure hunter. Assisted by a varying cast of allies and villains across the two games you are taken to a remote island, across vast mountains, the streets of a city at war, not a selection of places you would likely think would correspond with each other, never mind fit together in such a way that it all seems very natural. I lie a bit in that the remote island is basically the first game with no other locations, but the games are in fact similar so hence why it makes sense to review them together. Both feature a tale with real historical background, from search for El Dorado to the chintamani stone. While some of the elements are highly exaggerated, as I’ll get onto, they seem credible and this really pulls you into the story, disregarding the characters themselves. While quite a… unique twist is added onto the end, it’s worth it as I will draw upon later.

The characters themselves hold interest, with various acts of betrayal and loyalty throughout, and in moments of near-death that the so often find themselves in, while not quite causing the heart to skip a beat, certainly seek you to care. One of the principles Naughty Dog wanted to work on with Drake was that rather than the lead being a superhero with perfectly fluid movements he is instead much more human. He makes mistakes. His movement is not perfect, as like any human, with certain traits apparent. Some of his jumps hardly look flattering, quite the opposite to the distinct confident lunge found elsewhere. And best of all, he makes mistakes, often not having an answer to the situation. He’s still more than your average human, completing far more death-defying stunts than usually healthy, but since this is kind of essential to the genre it can’t be helped. Speaking of which, I’ll digress a bit.

This is a shooter. Drake kills HUNDREDS of people. That kind of action is hardly represented by your average human. And he shows little remorse. Sorry, none. The game simply wouldn’t work if you had to lament each kill, but it does kind of conflict with the character they are trying to build. This problem is even addressed late in the second game, where when faced with the option to kill the head honcho of the operation, whereas he has already cold heartedly killed several hundred lackeys just doing their job, he hesitates under confrontation. Sure this is probably trying to get across that human quality, and indeed his personality aligns so this would stop him killing, he does not come across as the cold hearted killer he really is. But again, the genre does not allow for that – killing hundreds doing their job actually classifies you as a hero. But the game couldn’t exist without this suspension of belief, so I’ll stop complaining here and admit that it’s necessary for the game. Anyway.

The actual system used for shooting is largely cover based – if you run out in the open, even with the most powerful of guns, don’t be surprised if a shotgun or sniper knocks you down. Of course you generally have time to carefully hop between cover, you can’t just run in and hope for the best. Generally. The first game allowed you to duck out of cover and shoot, which works, needing to pick your time to strike, but also shoot without it. There is no marker given on screen for this, so it is pretty much a wild guess. The second game has both these features but with a wide marker in grey, giving a vague idea of where your shooting, so while its still inaccurate it can actually be used to some benefit. While it still exists in the second game, it is more or a problem in the first, in that if your hiding behind some cover, and someone is on the other side, so you could shoot them without getting out of cover in reality, you must leave the cover or face the inaccurate shot penalty, which is fairly annoying. This rarely comes up though and otherwise the controls are perfect, always feel fair and allow you to do what you want. Unlike some other games, you know if you die its always your fault and no control issues can be blamed.

But finally there’s one part of the game I have yet to talk about but I can’t ignore it. In parts, its like a high budget blockbuster movie but all the more tense with you in control. Several times simply amazing stunts are performed, more often than not under your control, which simply feels epic. From running across a bridge collapsing underneath you to – my personal favourite moment – riding on the back of a train, with a carriage fallen off, spinning towards you, it looks like it’s gonna crush and kill you, but at the last second you enter a tunnel and it’s cut-off. These moments all feel genuinely tense, and at times it feels the bad scenario is going to happen. It feels like your right in the centre of an action movie, and that makes it so much more epic.

I’m approaching my word limit and I still have so much more praise for the series. I’ll say it’s brilliant and if you have a PS3 there is pretty much no reason not to have played both games including the upcoming Uncharted 3. I’m not sure I can award higher praise than saying it’s an essential purchase. And it’s just one of the games that make me immensely glad of the decision for me to get a PS3.

Monday, 26 September 2011

5 Suprising Limited Cards

Now, I must admit, I've been a bit silly. When I first thought to write my article on limited, I was going to go over what each of my packs gave to me and why I did what I did. But I may have accidentally mixed up all the cards, so that options out of there. Instead, I'm going to write about 5 cards that stood out during the event, mostly in my deck but also a few elsewhere.
Think Twice
I must confess, I didn't have to think twice about adding this card to the list. It's just so good for puns! And disregarding that it's still pretty awesome. Looking at the spoiler it's just a card I skimmed past, but in game it was simply brilliant. It gave you something to do with your mana, and if you had a bit left over gave some nice card advantage along with it! Sadly counterspells were few and far between in Innistrad, and I only pulled one, but decided not to use it due to restrictive conditions. Thus there were very few shenanigans you could play with this or that instant. But I certainly look forward to the mana leak and Think Twice "combo" so you get advantage from your opponent whatever happens. I was not sure if I was going to go blue before, but now I want to so I can play this card!
I really liked this card going into Limited, so was happy to see it in my pack. I still liked it coming out. But during... No. I may have made a mistake to add him in alongside the blue zombies so he rarely had a target, but I can only remember playing him twice... as a 1/1 and a 0/0(I really should have checked first...) So in limited, he probably aint the perfect card to be playing. But he's still pretty fun.
Snapcaster Mage
Like Splinterfreight, I had high hopes for this going in, so I was very happy to see one on my pack. Yet in limited, unless your fairly lucky he just don't shine. Most of my instants either had flashback themselves or were not ideal targets. I can see he's going to be awesome in constructed across the formats, but in limited he really does not meet the mark. Still, having that flash can make him useful, so hes probably a good addition anyway - just not nearly as good as he should be.
Villager of Estwald
Less this specific card, but werewolves in general. I was at first sceptical of how Werewolves worked, but I can now say that their mechanic is awesome. I found myself playing one, and missing a go gave me a beastie, and it's harder to deal with that you may think, either over-exert yourself or deal with it. And the missing a go don't really matter much either, being able to think twice during your opponents turn and then play another card on yours. I look forward to seeing more of these guys, and although with ponder and the like making it easier (I imagine) in constructed, it's something to look forward too.
Bloodgift Demon
My final card comes with a story. I was playing the last round. I was 2-2 so really wanted the win. My opponent mulligan'd to five, and I felt a bit more confident. Then they went to four, and I was like... this is bad. For me. I don't know why, but going down that low implies you kinda know what your doing. So he continually hit his land drops until T5, when he had a 5/4 flyer, I had no removal, and no way of dealing with it. So he slowly drew all those cards back and regained his loss, eventually winning the game. So it's brilliant for this format, if I didn't want one so much I'd consider first picking over Garruk. Maybe when I get my play set of that. On a side note, in limited I never get any removal and my bombs tend to not go further than Vastwood Gorger, so I'm not too lucky in that sense - I just get mythics after. I think I came about 37th/57, not my best attempt but still pretty good for a first bash at limited.
I hope you enjoyed the article. Finally, a shout out to Ollie, who is a Powerful Planeswalker!
See you next week... and may the Heart of the Cards be with you for that!.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Top 5 Fun Combos

Hi, and welcome to this week’s edition of Magic Monday. Now, I must confess, the actual content of this article is quite in contrast to the title. It should really be “Top 5 combos that have randomly happened in a commander game without intending them to, but hey, it just happens and is fun when they do.”… But that don’t have quite the same ring to it. You also probably would have dozed off by then from title alone. So pretty much, these ain’t the best combos in the world, but its just some I’ve come across through commander, regular, non-combo decks, that are great fun. More mini-combos than game winning, but still fun, and that’s what matters! (I must also note these are in no particular order.)

Conquerers Pledge + Nomads Assembly

Now this one should be fairly obvious. Get a BUNCH of tokens with Pledge, hopefully kicked, then quadruple that number for a very scary field. Not quite as cool or as unobvious as what’s to come, but it really made me grin whenever it comes to light, so I had to include it.

Kresh the Bloodbraided+ Momentous Fall + Praetors Counsel

Now, as anyone who’s seen Kresh in all his might would know, In a relatively short amount of time during a commander game he can go from 3/3 to a monster, certainly commonly over 20 power. Combine this with Momentous Fall is nice by itself, as you can respond to a removal spell by drawing about 20 cards, leaving your opponent down a card and you up by many, without a difference to your field status (seeing as a Kresh Commander deck can’t really run any counters.) But oh no! You’ve gotta discard it all at the end of turn  So your opponents may be annoyed at a large improvement of card quality, but the best has yet to come. Out of the blue, Praetors Counsel can bring them all back and prevent your end of turn discard, so suddenly you have an absolutely massive force to be dealt with. The best thing is, if you wanted to, you could make this fairly consistant. There are loads of cards that can allow you infinite hand size, from Venser’s Journal to Relinquary Tower. If you chose to take enough, it would be a reasonable guess that you could pull one from the 30 or so cards you can draw. I’d almost consider it, but I’m already strapped for card space 
I’ll also note that Soul’s Fire can slot nicely within this combo, but not an essential addition.


Liquimetal Coating + Unwinding Clock + Mirrodin’s Core(?)

The next combo is not one I executed, but rather a friend who I’m sure would rather remain nameless. I’ll call him BearDylan for the sake of argument. Anyway, Mirrodin’s Core requires you tap it for a charge counter, which in exchange can be exchanged for any colour of mana alongside another tap. This can be a good card by itself, but can also deprive you of mana when you really need that certain colour. Not anymore! Liquimetal Coating can turn Mirrodins Core to an artifact during an opponent’s upkeep, allowing Unwinding Clock to untap it, ready to tap before the next upkeep again letting you get another charge counter, pretty much meaning you have whatever colour mana whenever you want it. The scary thing is this is quite tame application of it. The charge counters amassed, but once youre past 3 or 4 it’s going to make little difference. At first I didn’t really like Liquimetal Coating, but now I must confess I see its potential in this combo. You could combine it with other cards like Imperious Perfect to amass a token army in a few turns, Royal Asssassin to really push off that big attack, or tap out your opponent with a Stun Sniper or Gideon’s Lawkeeper to prepare for your big attack. It’s a nice thing to get, and could really help out. Heck, at worse it allows you to give a creature pseudo-vigilance, which aint all that bad!
Also, as I posted this I thought of another alright combo to add on. Combo with Rakka Mar and Ancient Den for plenty 3/1 tokens for free :D


Animar, Soul of Elements, Inexorable Tide, Garruks Horde

Another combo not at home with myself, but someone who seems less bothered about other people knowing he enjoys himself, Alex. This combo can work in a variety of ways, but these 3 cards seemed to epitomise what it entails. Animar makes people cheaper to cast every time a creature is cast, Inexorable tide then makes him more powerful and also makes creatures even cheaper. Combine this with Garruks Horde and having cards in hand does not become an issue. Animar also renders the need for mana almost needless. With a lucky set of topdecks you can quickly amass an army of powerful creatures from nowhere. The abudance of Bloodthirst in this deck only adds fuel to the cause, creating a monstrous army… and you can even combine this combo with planeswalkers to create either sheer survivability or access to a planeswalkers ultimate the turn it enters play. Scary stuff!


Fleshbag Marauder + Butcher of Malakir+ Nim Deathmantle

Nasty combo. Start out with Butcher of Malakir and Nim Deathmantle on the battlefield, late game, when you have lots of mana open, preferably 15. Play Fleshbag Marauder, and sacrifice itself to force each opponent to sacrifice a creature. As this happens, Butcher of Malakir kicks in, forcing another sacrifice. But then you active Nim Deathmantles ability, returning your Fleshbag Marauder to the battlefield, and the cycle continues while your opponent has creatures and you have mana. With the 15 advised, That’s 6 creatures. This is the point to say Grave Pact would work just as well as Butcher of Malakir. Now destroying 6(in a typical 4 player game) opposing creatures is obviously nice, and even gets past shroud and indestructible and the like, making it an even better deal for the cost of a single card. However, the most fun part comes in an optional bonus – Kresh the Bloodbraided. With this little combo your getting +13/+13 alone, ignoring what everyone else sacrifices. Assuming there are 3 players left, and they all sacrifice 6 1/1s(giving scope for people having less, more powerful creatures) that’s still a total of +31/+31, Enough to take someone out with Commander damage now they have a blank field. At that’s probably being too generous. Thanks to this little combo I had Kresh end the game with over 100 +1/+1 counters on him… That’s fun.

Friday, 16 September 2011

4 things that don't make sense about Warhammer 40'000

Warhammer 40000 has quite an complicated rule system to master, with a rulebook of essential information spanning over 100 pages. Yet, with all that detail, there are still things that don’t make sense or are missed out. Now, I’m not going to comment too much on specific rules (such as wound allocation) in a balance sense, but much more in a fun way that you will surely find out soon. Like, now.

1. Grenades
Now, I don’t know about you, but over my time as a (video) gamer I have experienced quite a few shooters. Not nearly as many as most of you, but enough to know vaguely what I’m on about. Now, don’t get me wrong, but quite often I’ve used grenades to, y’know, kill people. They are pretty effective at throwing, and if you’re caught close enough, instantaneous death. Yet Warhammer allows for no such possibility with its most common grenades, frag and krak. You may use these on vehicles, but why not men? They have strength values, it’d be fairly easy to imagine a 6” range with a 1D6 scatter. Now you could argue that in most of these shooters are generally far more lightly armored than you average combatant, but I disagree. Take the imperial guard – they are about the same. It is hardly realistic to believe if some Space Wolves came across renegade guard they wouldn’t consider throwing a grenade. Frag to same point is represented in that it can draw enemies out of cover, but it has no chance to kill, regardless of whether you even consider krak. I think it silly I can’t do this, as it really does make sense. If I can blow up an armored transport with this grenade, has no marine really considered throwing one at a mob of orks instead?
2. I’m close to you… I miss.
The battles raging. Shots are firing everywhere. A missile shot renders that speeding Land Raider immobile, a lucky sequence of events. Even luckier, theres a tactical marine with a meltagun nearby, so close that he could practically touch it without so much as a step forward. He takes aim, at a massive chunk of metal, unable to move. Aaannd… he misses. It’s happened to all of us at some point. For some reason, this chosen warrior out of 1000, trained to the finest art of combat, with potentially thousands of years of experience, misses such a shot. How does that make sense? I understand the rules in most contexts – it does indeed represent a moving battlefield. A unit has moved 6” last turn, and even though it appears to be sitting on the tabletop, down on the battlefield it’s still in motion, only reaching it’s destination in time for your next turn, so obviously I an allow some discrepancy for shooting a moving target, even if the models themselves are barely an inch apart. What I cannot stand is that my battle-hardened veteran could miss a huge, immobile, chunk on metal from so close. Its baffling. Did he forget to pull the trigger or something? Did he not notice the massive, roaring beast as it approached? Was he simply too busy reading a text to take aim? They all sound a bit silly don’t they? And so does this interaction.
3. I’m a battle hardened space marine. Trained and blessed by the emperors embodiment, I am ready to fight and kill any enemy. Into combat I charge… but wait, a lowly ork grunt has more attacks than me? Crap.
Now really. The vanilla marine book sees a tactical marine with a measly one attack, and no close combat weapon to bolster his power. WHY? An ork grunt, even when holding a shooter, bolsters two attacks. I get they live to fight and all, but this can be represented by low cost, furious charge, and an option to have close combat weapons. That my regular marine cannot put out as much damage seems ridiculous to say the least. And the main problem is that, for some unknown reason, the imperium can’t be bothered to give the majority of their fighters a bloody knife. You’d think these sacred warriors would all at least have something to deal with hand to hand combat. Even in the (logical) case of the Space Wolves, where each man does indeed have the brains to carry a chainsword, they are still matching these orks holding a shoota. I personally don’t like the whole feral feel of Space Wolves, but I play them because they seem to be the only chapter to add logic into their battlegear choices. Building on that, but a bit of a digression – they can take special weapons in units of 5. Ironic how they are the most tactical of tactical squads and they don’t even bare the name, having to run around in units of 10 for a single melta is a bit underwhelming. And, y’know, you think a TACTICAL squad, able to fill any role, would carry around the bare basics to take part in 1/3 of the game. But that’s more mechanics than anything. Anyway.
I’m actually being kind. Every player should know the flavour behind marines. Each man is indeed amazing in their own right. They could arguably swing the tide of battle with a lone soldier, and a whole squad could take down an entire army. But I know for gameplay this does not work without going to movie marine levels, and I accept that. What I disagree with however, is how you play the newly released Space Marine. You find yourself ambushed by a horde of Orks, at least 30. Yet with a bit of tactical thinking massacring them all is relatively easy. On the table top however, it would take all of two seconds(depending on how fast your opponent rolls) for all of these to just die. I understand gameplay balance, but such a change as this really is a bit too far. Especially seeing as most troopers ain’t learned to carry around a flippin close combat weapon in 40’000 years.
4. Our unit has taken more casualties than intended – we are down to six men. We are currently being chased down by a Chaos Rhino. In my hand I hold a meltabomb and to my left a Power Fist – but our meltagun took a casualty. If we can face this foe, we can easily crush it. But we running away from a threat we could easily take out. Why? Orders from above. Why? Not a clue.
It’s got to have happened to everyone. At least marines have some leeway – they can survive under half strength, which is both useful and flavourful. Other armies may not be so lucky, but most also lack the faith in their leader to get them through, no matter the odds. So again, this will focus on Marines. I understand tactical retreat, but the aforementioned situation is possible and has probably happened in a similar situation to every marine player. I can understand running for it when you’re facing down a Carnifex – indeed, again shots can be fired which is probably the most human-like response to deal with it. But when the threat lies in a flimsy vehicle – or in some cases, a lone guy lucky enough to survive shots, it’s a bit ridiculous. I don’t believe an actual space marine would not attempt to at least throw that damn meltabomb at the vehicle at he’s running, but even more likely would a marine feed the Rhino a Power Fist. But nope, they keep running. This rule is more of a situational nitpick, as they are indeed human and will be outright scared and flee from time to time, but Marines could have some sort of last stand move – they can assault the unit chasing them, but if they fail to at least win combat that round they meet an untimely end. This is hardly the best solution as it is pretty illogical versus a big beastie or even a moderately sized squad, but a lone Rhino sees little reason why, in the battlefield we want to believe, this is not possible.

I’m sure there are many more silly situations you can think of, but this is my top 4. Let me know of anything far more illogical!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Magic Celebration

As I’m sure many of you will know, Wizards celebrated Magic on the 10th September, with the imaginatively named Magic Celebration. It seems the basic idea was to allow people who had only experience Duels of the Planeswalkers to take to the printed game at no monetary expense (unless of course you have to travel.) Anyway, I’m sure this happened but me and some friends took the opportunity to give some feedback, and I’ll see what I can remember about my games.

Before we began I had a pack wars with Japanese packs and won by quite a margin thanks to a lucky stream of aggro, but my opponent was the real winner pulling both Doom blade and Solemn Simulacrum. I had a battle report, but I think I’ve lost it ><

The actual event was mini-master, where you get a pack, add 3 of each lands, have a game, and get another pack to add to your deck if you win. This instance saw two lots of 3 rounds. My opening pack contained a Elvish Archdruid as my rare, hardly the best for the format, so I got two losses in my first round. However, I recovered afterwards with a win, and was happy to pull Gideon Jura(my 3rd from M12!) A vengeful Pharoh was in the last pack, which I traded off. The second pod saw me pull a Dungrove Elder, possibly one of the worst cards for this format. I added another forests to power it up after my first game, but due to lack of numbers faced someone with two packs and lost the game – yet I managed to win my next game with the single pack.

Well, I imagine THAT was a fun read. I imagined it would go slightly differently, but my memory’s a bit lacking so that’s it! What I can offer instead is feedback – the day was brilliant. Free packs is not something to refuse anyway, but almost everyone I went with pulled at least one mythic, with the sole unlucky person making it back in good trades instead. I wouldn’t take it over a draft if I had to purchase packs myself, but as it is it’s a pretty good idea to get people in store, having fun, and earning a whole Planeswalker Point =O

Another aspect of the day was the purchase of the new Two-Player packs. It was an alright experience, but in hindsight the 20 cards (consisting of 10 lands, 9 commons and an uncommon) is not really worth the extra pound each over packs unless you’re desperate for those extra cards. I pulled a bloodthirst theme at least, so I’m glad with my Stormblood Beserker.

I feel a bit off to end at just under 500 words, but I’ve said what there is really. I’ll be attending the Innistrad Pre-release, so hopefully I’ll have more to say about that! Then at least I could offer some deck building insight… Until Wednesday!

Friday, 9 September 2011

New Facebook theme tune

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Like no one ever was...

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Searching far and wide

Each facebook friend to understand

The power that's inside

facebook friend!,(gotta friend em all!) its you and me

Plus another 493!

facebook friend!, oh, you're my best friend

In a world we must befriend!

facebook friend!,(gotta friend em all...) profile so true

Our status will pull us through

You friend me and I'll friend you

Facebook friend, gotta friend 'em all

gotta friend 'em all, Facebook friend!

I'm so goddamn cool...

Monday, 5 September 2011

Top 5 Keywords

So yeah, I’ve decided to make this a regular feature – Monday Magic. I’m quite interested in the game at the moment, so for the foreseeable future look forward to Magic on Mondays!
Anyway, this article is about keywords. Magic has literally hundreds of keywords, all that do different things and affect the game in different way. So for this article, I’m going to list 5 keywords that so far I’ve really liked and say why. Might not be for you, but who knows!
5. Exalted
A nice add on for quite a few cards, that rewards flavourful play… Well, I can’t exactly see some cards being exalted as such, but the flavour is there regardless! Allows for some good, fun plays. A turn one Akrasan Squire can lead to a nice early advantage that can be passed onto a more powerful creature a few turns later.

4. First Strike
Evergreen still count! In a list like this it could be easy to forget about the evergreen keywords, so I have to cover my favourite one. It’s pretty influential, seeing as alongside Double Strike it has an entire phase of the combat step dedicated to it. I don’t know every keyword, but I can’t think of another that has the game stop for a second to consider every single turn. Beyond that, it’s a very nice mechanic, it allows for a card to be a completely different threat. It allows for nice design like Porcelain Legionnare, which looks extremely fragile, but you have to get the hit in first – this is seen elsewhere, yet also shows a simply amazing warrior. The best evergreen mechanic for me.

3. Kicker
If I could choose to make one keyword evergreen, this would be it. It’s brilliant, allowing a card to serve a dual purpose, or gives a way to spend excess mana in a long game. There are some crazy fun designs like Conquerer’s Pledge with crazy numbers, yet still serves a purpose while low on mana.

2. Suspend

This mechanic by itself is cool, but does not earn second place by itself. It’s use in Delay does that. I love the idea of rather than dealing with the threat, sending it to the future either to be dealt with later, or when make it turn up when it’s too late. There’s not much more to say than that I love this interaction.

1. Cascade

Number one, the short lived cascade, but it pretty much sums up everything I love about magic, or to an extent card games in general. The first, I love multicolour cards, and cascade was exclusive to multicolour, so there’s reason to like it from the start. I like random events making each game different, and while you can control the cascade effect, it is pretty random as to what you get.(This may also be why I love commander.) And finally, I like card advantage, and you’re nearly always going to get it from playing a cascade card. These three factors combined into one word makes Cascade my favourite mechanic, earning Bloodbraid Elf and Bituminious Blast a place in my Kresh commander deck.

Thanks for sticking with us. Next week - a report on how the Magic Celebration with Pack wars went!