Thursday, July 10, 2014

Game Review: The Doom the Came to Atlantic City

 If you think board games are just for kids, think again.  A booming table-top gaming industry has grown recently, with niche-shops opening in many major cities.  Old favorites like Monopoly are still played, as well as numerous specialty games catering to every interest and geared toward adults.  Game nights bring together friends and enthusiasts who connect in a way that video-games simply don't allow for.  

 I discovered The Doom that Came to Atlantic City while visiting one of these stores with my daughter.  We sat down at a table and played the "demo" set the store made available for just that purpose, and had a blast.  I knew this game would be a hit in my house and with my friends, and ordered my game that same week.

 In The Doom that Came to Atlantic City, you play a Great Old One from the stories written by HP Lovecraft.  The game is set on a board that is a replica of Monopoly, however, instead of buying properties and building them up with houses and hotels, you destroy houses and resorts to destroy a street and create a Gate.  If you can create six Gates, you bring doom to the world and win the game.  

 Game-play is much faster than Monopoly, with a game taking about an hour to play.  In addition to the goal of getting six Gates, you can also win the game by completing a "Doom" mission randomly assigned at the beginning of the game.  The game involves building up power by collecting "Cultists" and destroying houses, each of which are used as currency that you spend to enact powers and "Chants" which change the play of the game.  While you are striving to build your Gates and complete your Doom mission, you must also foil the efforts of other players.  You gain Cultists by completing a circuit of the board and by engaging your fellow players in combat.  Getting around the board is harder than it sounds, as rolling doubles too many times and landing on certain spaces can result in you being "banished" until you have sufficient cultists to re-enter the game.

 The game includes eight amazingly detailed markers representing the Great Old Ones; Azathoth, Shub Niggurath, Hastur, Yog Sothoth, Ithaqua, Tsathoggua, Nyarlathotep, and of course Cthulhu.  Each starts out with a "Providence Trait", a power which modifies the way the marker moves or interacts with the game.  As you play, you can gain additional modifiers and change the modifiers you have (as well as have other players steal or change your modifiers).  Two sets of cards, "Providence" and "Chants", modify game play. Providence cards tend to be lasting effects on the game, while Chants are held by the players until they need to be used and generally have an immediate, one-turn effect.  In addition, destroying street and creating Gates give you additional abilities, with the maximum effect of these abilities being achieved if you manage to destroy an entire "region".  In addition to standard play, several modified versions of the game include additional modifiers like Tome Cards, which give your marker added abilities.  

 The game-play moves fast, with players taking actions to change another players turn and thwarting their efforts.  This makes it difficult to achieve any of the goals of the game; from destroying a region to just making a circuit of the board.  Making things even more interesting are "Event" cards sprinkled throughout both the Chants and Providence card-sets.  Event Cards are played immediately and impact the nature of the game itself.  

 The Doom that Came to Atlantic City is beautifully crafted, including amazing art.  The game rules are simple yet wickedly designed, with the game being as much about thwarting your fellow players as achieving your own goals.  In a word, the game is simply "fun"!  The price-tag is a little on the high-side, with the game going for $60-$75 depending on where you buy it.  The different variants and special cards in the game means it will be a long time before you play the same game twice.  Definitely invite some friends over, order some pizza, and destroy Atlantic City.  The Doom that Came to Atlantic City is a hit.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Movie Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

 Freddy's Revenge is not bad as a sequel.  This is before the writers just went full-on camp with the Freddy Krueger character.  He has some lines, but not the cheesiness that comes to be Freddy Krueger in later films.  Freddy's Revenge is about the gore, pure-and-simple, and is a nerdy kid's revenge-fantasy come to life.  

 The protagonist, Jesse, is a spazz.  He is just hip enough to be accepted by his classmates, but he has some issues.  He is often sullen, suffers from nightmares, lacks confidence with women, but is generally harmless enough to be likeable.  In other words, he is akin to about 80% of The Nightmare on Elm Street viewing audience.  Ends up that Jesse and his family moved into the Elm Street murder house (dad got a real bargain for it), and Jesse is having some issues as a result.

Let me get that booger for you...
 In the first film, Freddy was frightening not because of the claws or the scars, but because if you went to sleep you were his.  In Revenge, that is taken away from him.  Freddy instead possesses one kid and then goes after than kid's enemies.  Is Freddy using him, or is Jesse using Freddy?  Let's think about this for a second.  Freddy's victims include Jesse's kinky gym teacher who antagonizes him, Jesse's bully and bro-crush, Jesse's snobby frat classmates who looked down on him, and almost Jesse's intimidating love-interest.  Jesse, it seems, isn't killing for Freddy as much as Freddy is killing for Jesse.  

That's why the girls like him!
 Speaking of frat classmates, what is up with Freddy when he attacks the Lisa's pool party?  Did they find the shortest stunt actor in Hollywood to play Freddy?  How intimidating is the diminutive troll that dances around the pool slashing at people?  And, why are the kids running right into him one at a time?  Why not just stay the hell away from him or team-up with the other jock-douchebags and rush him? Freddy is no less pathetic than when he possessed Jesse.  Personally, I blame Jesse.
I know too many girls who find this hot...
 The special effects in this film where good.  The tongue scene, easily done, still haunts my memories.  I could have done without the pool pyrotechnics.  Exploding hotdogs just don't do it for me.  The end scene, meant to make the audience question everything as it did in the first film, just doesn't have the same impact.  Of the series, Revenge is probably the one you could do without. 

Movie Review: Fright Night

 Before From Dusk Til Dawn, Lost Boys, and Vamp, there was Fright NightFright Night defined vampire-cool in the 1980s, with a minimum of whining about being a tortured soul and absolutely no sparkly nonsense.  The vampire, Jerry Dandrige, revels in being a vampire and the power it gives him.  He is a charismatic, charming, brilliant, and truly evil monster.  That is just one of the things that makes this film so great.

 The only real negative about this film is the protagonist, Charley Brewster.  Charley is what I like to call "the King of Betas".  He is a nerdy, whiny kid who can be distracted from his nerdy girlfriend's boobs and willingness to put-out by horror films and his neighbor's strange nocturnal activities.  This kid has some how hit the perfect, non-existent balance between being a horror-nerd yet still being relatively popular at his school.  I mean, look at the car Charley drives!  Such a juxtaposition of trendy cool wrapped around a geek is rare indeed and hard to believe in a horror film.  

And this isn't even my final form!
 Now, while you are rooting for Jerry and hoping that Charley bites it (sorry about the pun) in some pathetic fashion, his friend "Evil" Ed is a piece of work we can all relate to.  Probably a deeper geek than Charley (as demonstrated by his advising Charley on how to deal with vampires), Ed is also less popular than his friend (loathing the "evil" nick name he has been given for his interests) but also seems less concerned about the opinions of his peers.  Ed becomes another character you will want to root for.
Marcy from "Married with Children"

 Amy, Charley's girlfriend and Jerry's love-interest, is your typical victim.

 Unfortunately, this is an atypical vampire film built on a typical vampire-film frame.  That is, the monster must be vanquished and the hero must save his girl.  After an hour-and-a-half of Jerry demonstrating just how cool, powerful, and intelligent he is, he blows it all in the final confrontation with rejects from Mystery Incorporated.  Still, Fright Night is a fun romp, bringing the right mix of sexy and scarey to the vampire portrayal and setting the standard for several vampire films to follow.
Your "heroes".

 The story is well written (minus the few plot-holes I mentioned above) and the dialogue is funny throughout.  Special effects are very well done while remaining old-school; lots of blood and slime to keep gore fans satisfied.  The word that keeps coming to mind is "fun".  Fright Night is fun throughout.  It is truly a classic horror film.