GET YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW! LAST CHANCE! Next Monday we’ll be recording episode 75, so we’ll be doing a Q&A, I’ve gotten some questions, but we want to get more! If you have questions for Nerdologists: Dungeons and Flagons emails them to firstname.lastname@example.org or find…
Month: July 2017
Sometimes you really want to play a board game but no one knows the game. So now you have to teach people to play the game or to play a game that maybe you don’t want to play as much. If you decide to teach the game, what are some tips and tricks for teaching a board game?
- Don’t just read from the rule book.
This seems pretty obvious, but the amount of times people just start reading verbatim from the rule books is way to high. Instead know the rules yourself, and be able to teach them in the order that makes the most sense to you, and in the detail that you think your players need.
- Show and Tell is Key
Don’t just say, there are four types of cards, pull out one of each of those types of cards and point to them as you talk about them. Maybe there is a certain way a character moves, in that case, move the character on the board so people can see how they move.
- Have Players Help
How can you help if you are learning the game? Well, maybe there is a deck of cards that need to be placed in a certain spot after being shuffled, give that out as a job to someone. Or maybe there are resources that need to be placed out in certain spots that are fairly obvious, once you’ve taught about the resources, have a player or the players put them out.
- Save Special Rules
This might be just me, but I recommend that you save rare rules until the end or until they happen. If the rule is going to be common enough, but isn’t tied into any part of the game, save that rule until the end. If the rule is going to only come up in a given situation that is rare, save it until it happens as long as it isn’t too mean. You’ll have to be the judge of what too mean is, but if it’s going to seriously hurt a player or knock them out of the running, you have to decide if you’re either going to mention it at the start or if you’re going to let them undo the turn.
- Let them Undo Their Turn (or part of it)
This isn’t going to be something that players can do often. Once a player has made a mistake once, players don’t get free passes any more because they’ve heard the rule while you were teaching and seen the rule in play. Also, if it’s a complex turn, don’t let players undo their whole turn just because they forgot or didn’t understand a rule because that will slow down the game too much. Just call it a practice game or first game mistake, they are understandable.
- Explain the Theme/Story of the Game
Do this with the game at the very start of explaining the rules. This is going to keep people interested from the start. Along with that, tie stuff in to the story or theme of the game as you go along. In SeaFall, they have information about how to do an event for exploring (forget the title of it) and you do the same thing for other events besides exploring. Instead of just call it by it’s generic name, tie it into exploring as you explain and then tell what else it can be used for at the end. Since it’s tied into theme, people are likely to remember it better.
These are some of the big tips that I would give for teaching a game. I don’t always love teaching games, so understand that you might not always want to. Then the decision is with you do you want to struggle through it some, or do you want to play a different game? If you’re the leader of your board game group, you’re going to have to get used to teaching. So determine what is going to work best for your group. Maybe you can get into the small details of the game and that’s fine for your group, maybe you have to play a sample game so that people can see how the game works that way, but learn from experience and expect to still have to teach as you play.
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Valerian and the Cit of a Thousand Planets – By Luc Besson
Kristen and I got a chance to see this on Tuesday, and it’s officially releasing on July 21st, 2017. So as you’re making your plans for the weekend, I get to help you answer the question: is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets worth seeing?
The story is based on a French comic called Valerian and Laureline, which was first published in 1967 and wrapped up in 2010. Needless to say, they didn’t try and fit the whole story into the movie. The story revolves around the two main characters, Valerian and Laureline, as they try and determine what is going on in Alpha City, the City of a Thousand Planets, and why an attack is happening that is making parts of the city and station uninhabitable. This city was sent away from its decaying Earth orbit after it got too large, but that was 400 years ago. Since then, this city, which had a good number of alien inhabitants while around Earth, has picked up many, many more aliens, and everyone lives together peacefully for the most part. However, there is a zone of radiation that is growing, making parts of the station uninhabitable. So Valerian and Laureline are tasked with helping Commander Filitt, played by Clive Owen, find out who is behind it all.
Some initial thoughts about this movie — first of all, it was better than I expected. I thought it was very likely that we would see nearly all of the thousand alien races, but we probably only saw several dozen It was still a lot, but the trailers made this movie look like it was going to be shiny alien races galore and not much plot. Now, that’s not to say that there is a great plot — there are multiple plot threads and one that runs throughout the whole thing, but it isn’t a tightly constructed plot. In fact, we meet a character pretty early on in the film who seems to be a Chekhov’s gun; however, the film then forgets about him, and we’re left wondering whether there was something left on the editing room floor, or if the writers just forgot to come back to him. The best compliment that I can pay to this film is that it is very reminiscent of The Fifth Element, another Luc Besson film (albeit shinier — which wasn’t always in its favor).
Let’s talk about the acting in this film. The simplest way to put it was that it was kind of a hot mess. This film focuses heavily on the characters of Valerian and Laureline played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. It seems Valerian is supposed to be very like Korben Dallas from The Fifth Element; however, in Bruce Willis’s portrayal of Dallas, the character had rough edges but ends up being generally likable. Though it’s clear that DeHaan’s Valerian is supposed to be likable, he isn’t given the same rough edges and depth that Korben Dallas has. Some of that is because the portrayals of Laureline by Cara Delevingne and Bubble by Rihanna, both whom are evidently supposed to help Valerian grow and develop as a character, do not work all that well as foils to him. Rihanna’s performance generally just seemed to take up space in the film, as it ended up adding nothing besides a dance scene and an attempt at boosting Valerian’s character growth. Cara Delevingne’s performance was better; however, her acting range seems limited, so while she was believable, for the most part, as the government agent partnered with Valerian, she wasn’t as believable as a character who was supposed to grow significantly like Valerian and also encourage him to be a better person. While DeHaan did a decent job of trying to show that growth, the fact that Delevingne’s acting style is reminiscent of Nicholas Cage’s (i.e. they seem to basically play themselves in films) meant that there wasn’t much for DeHaan to play off of. Despite these flaws, though, there were a few solid performances. For example, Sam Spruell, who plays a General on the Alpha Base/City was really enjoyable to watch, and it was compelling to see him make tough decisions.
The aliens in the world are generally well done. However, they weren’t without flaws either. There is an alien race that you meet early on, called the Pearls, that felt like a miss to me. They are generally humanoid and almost remind one of the aliens from Avatar. They were presented as a very happy and peaceful race, and this was conveyed through their flowing, almost dance-like way of moving. This didn’t make any sense to me, though, as it would be impossible to maintain without having much more muscular shoulders than these aliens had; they were generally tall and wispy looking. This was a shame, as we meet them early on, and it gives the film a bit of a rocky start. But the CGI and other special effects were generally quite well done.
One last critical note — I do want to talk a little bit about the length of this film, and some issues with the story itself that I saw, without giving away too much. This film is two and a half hours long, which I felt was a good 45 minutes too long for the material in the film. Now, some of this comes from the creators trying to jam more aliens into this film than needed, but a fair amount of it is just odd pacing, or odd additions of comedy at certain points. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets needed one more good pass-through by the editors, director, and studio to trim the fat. It also needed better direction in terms of the protagonists’ relationship — since the movie takes place in under 24 hours, it feels like the studio determined that the film needed to include a complete love story that resolved by the end. That was just a bad plan, as it felt rushed, and there was no real reason to bring it full-circle. I felt it would have been more compelling if, at the end, they’d had the girl kiss the guy and say something like, “We’ll see where this leads down the road,” to leave things more open-ended. There was no real reason to rush it and force it.
So I’ve talked about how this film was better than I expected — so why was that the case? First off, I’m sure it was partly because it exceeded my expectations by a long way. I was pretty sure from seeing the trailer that while it looked like it could be interesting, it was more likely going to be mostly a slog, punctuated by lots of pretty or impressive-looking aliens with no strong plot to pull it together. However, it did have a decent overarching plot (albeit a bit weak and overdone). Second, I liked it because it has a nostalgia factor due to its simliarity to The Fifth Element. These two films very much feel like they’re essentially the same film, and that’s not a bad thing. I still prefer The Fifth Element to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, but there was something familiar about the film that made it more enjoyable for me. Finally, once you figure out that it isn’t trying to be a serious film and that it’s meant to be a popcorn flick, it allows you to enjoy some of the more well-done characters — for example, the Shingouz, who are information brokers. The three of them go to great, comical lengths to get Laureline to like them, and feel like a cross between Alf and half Howard the Duck.
What is my final takeaway from this movie? In short, it’s a popcorn movie; there isn’t much more to it than that. It touches loosely on some deeper themes, like the pitfalls of colonialism, but that mainly felt a bit borrowed from Avatar and didn’t add a great deal to the story. Is it worth seeing in theaters? It certainly was pretty to see in 3D, and there are lot of shiny aliens and special effects, but I don’t know that I would want to pay full price to go see it. This film is not a great piece of filmmaking, but I and most of the theater found it quite enjoyable nonetheless.
Critical Grade: D
Popcorn Grade: B-
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Back for more reviews on games that are a bit older, but I’ve finally gotten a chance to play them, and in the case of Mansions of Madness, was totally worth the wait to check it out. So spoilers, I’m going to review this pretty well.
Mansions of Madness is a story based game where you are investigators in a Lovecraftian world, trying to figure out different scenarios, solve puzzles, and search for clues. The investigators have been called to look into weird things that are going at on this mansions and exploring through the rooms, meeting the Butler, and trying to track down the cultists who are working on bringing through one of the elder gods. Things aren’t that easy though, and the monsters that show up and cultists that are running around are definitely trying to hurt you or drive you insane.
So, this game seems like there should be a ton of set-up that you need to do throughout the game. You are placing where the clue tokens are, you are setting up the rooms and there are monsters to be placed. That’s one of the cool features of the 2nd Edition of Mansions of Madness, it comes with an app.This app tells you what to set-up, where you need to set it up, and what you are seeing. You aren’t just placing a few clue tokens onto a board to investigate, you are getting a description that there is a family portrait on the wall, and that’s what you’re investigating, or the pile of mail that is sitting in the foyer, or maybe papers on the office desk.
There are other cool features to the app as well, it gives you story pieces, in fact it’s voice acted as you get the information for the case when you start. And it fills in the details as to what you find, so no flipping through a book, you just pick the clue you investigated (and it even tells you how to investigate it), you can then find the clue and information. It allows Mansions of Madness to feel like an RPG but without having someone run the game. And it allows them to do puzzles. Maybe you are very smart, then you can take more turns trying to figure out a puzzle, but they might be worse at combat. Finally, it makes the board different for you, we played the same scenario twice, and the board and clues came up differently.
The app is definitely the big selling point to this game. There are other fun features as well. The fact that each character is unique and has a unique power is great. Along with that, it’s an annoying thing, but also a fun thing, when you get more wounds than you can take, you get a permanent wound, so you don’t die right away, but now instead of being able to hold a lot of items, now you can only hold two. The same thing happens with sanity, you are going more and more insane, and if you reach your insanity threshold then you go insane, and if you reach it again you die. But, like wounds, going insane means something, for example, when I went insane in the game that we barely won, I had to have a slashing weapon (I think that’s what it was called), and be in the same spot as the other player otherwise, I think the other player would have won, but I wouldn’t have. Now, what I was doing with that knife, never explained, but now I had to do weird stuff in order to be able to win.
Overall, this is a fun game and the app makes this game accessible to people who aren’t gamers. That said, I do think that this is more of a gamers game, and while it is cooperative, someone who is less of a gamer might just be doing what someone else says for them to do, versus playing the game as much themselves. However, and I think this is how it should be, if you are playing Mansions of Madness with someone who isn’t as much of a gamer, let them play, and it’s not super difficult to learn and once they do, they are going to enjoy it more.
Overall Grade: A
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: B-
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