This Week in Geekdom

Why hello there March. And, hey, look at that. PAX East is now less than a week away! At this point, I'd normally be up to my elbows in crafting paraphernalia pushing to finish whatever bits of costume remained incomplete. As you might have guessed from the lack of cosplay updates, this year's PAX is going to play out a bit differently (and for a pretty excellent reason). Next Friday I'll be teaming up with three members of the Game Makers Guild for a panel titled Your Game is Broken: Giving and Getting Useful Feedback. If you'll be at the BCEC next weekend, come check us out (along with our companion panel, Birthing Your Board Game: From Conception to Maturity). But ok, enough self-promotion and more This Week in Geekdom!
We'd love to see you at either or both of these!
Comics

Because Sony owns the rights to the X-Men, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver can no longer be the children of Magneto in the Avengers movies. So who, or what, are they? Uncanny Avengers #2 will give us the answer to exactly that question.

In an incredibly sharp contrast to its earlier stance on similar matters, DC, via writer Genevive Valentine, has confirmed that supervillainess Catwoman is bisexual.

Games

It seems that rhythm games are poised to make a comeback. Both Harmonix and Activision have announced plans to bring back Rock Band and Guitar Hero respectively. No release dates have been set, but both companies indicated that these resurrections could take place as soon as later this year.

Batman: Arkham Knight will be rated M for Mature and is still on schedule for its on June 2nd.

It might be the most absurd, or the most practical collector's edition of a game to ever be offered (depending on how important preparedness for a zombie apocalypse is for you). GAME and Techland are offering a My Apocalypse Collector's Edition for Dying Light for the measly sum of 250,000 GBP. What do you get for that insane price? All this.

Movies/TV

On Friday Leonard Nimoy cast off his earthly bonds and was free to roam the universe once more. Many of his castmates from Star Trek (and staff from NASA) offered their thoughts and memories of their dear friend, including Wil Wheaton, who wrote this eulogy.

Neill Blomkamp backtracks on his earlier declarations about his forthcoming Alien film. Apparently this movie will include both Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection in its continuity.

It has no projected release date or title, but it does already have a built-in audience. Warner Bros. confirmed that it will be developing an Adventure Time movie.

Science/Technology

The hype is already starting to build around Apple's upcoming smartwatch. So what can the Watch Sport do for you? Well, Tim Cook has a few responses for that.

A California start-up, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, is aiming to bring the super rapid transit system first introduced to the public by Elon Musk into functional reality next year.

Whether it's chess or Jeopardy, computers have made their presence felt in the realm of games. Now, Google DeepMind attempts to tackle vintage arcade games without even having access to the rules.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery/Real Life Superhero

Cynthia Lam is only 17, but she just might change the world. The Australian high school senior has come up with a way to use the sun to both purify water and generate electricity.

It's a shot so awesome that the fact it's a selfie is forgivable. Check out what Curiosity sent us back from Mars.

Industrial design student Jackson Gordon (somehow no relation to Commissioner Gordon) drafted and constructed the incredible, fully functional Batman suit you see over on the right.

Behold, the iSaber.

Researchers at the Drents Museum in the Netherlands were stunned earlier this week when they discovered that a statue of the Buddha housed at the facility contained a 1,000 year old mummy.

Crowdfundables for Your Consideration

If your game group could do with some fast, light-hearted deduction that appeals to players of all experience levels, then you may want to check out Oh My Gods. The campaign for the game will be up and running for another 29 days.

Late last month we reviewed the witty courtroom visual novel Regeria Hope. The Golden Game Barn  has since updated the introductory episode and is attempting to drum up the capital to produce more adventures for Ms. Hope and her brethren. The Kickstarter will run until March 25th.

We're not going to forget the first Singaporean board game to make its way to the Care and Feeding of Nerds any time soon. Speaking of soon, the campaign for this game, Hitman Holiday, will be coming to a close in 10 days. Don't miss out on the sunshine and death!

Also ending soon is the Kickstarter for the quick and didactic sciency goodness of Amino. Only five days left!

The project is already fully funded, but that didn't stop us from falling in love with Lost Woods by Poppy Jasper. A survival game with fantasy elements and a dynamic board, Lost Woods promises a novel gaming experience with every playthrough. The Kickstarter ends today, so don't wait to give Lost Woods a look.

The lightening-quick supernatural deduction game Find It & Bind It also met its initial funding target and is now climbing up through its stretch goals. The campaign will be up and running until March 30th.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead. And we hope to see some of you next week at PAX! I leave you guys with my favorite (and earliest) memory of Leonard Nimoy: the introduction before each showing at the Mugar Omni Theater in Boston's Museum of Science.

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Gias Glance: Sending the Gaming Industry a Message (Part 2)

This post is the second in a series examining why gamers should reconsider pre-ordering games. If you're just joining us now, you can find the first part in the series here.

Why Not Pre-Order? Save Money
 
I am a frugal gamer. I love saving money, which, ideally, results in me more “bang for my buck”. When gaming on consoles, I loved picking up games from the bargain bin for $10-15. As a PC gamer, Steam has ruined me for buying games full price. I can expect 33% off in 2-3 months after release,
50% off when a sale hits, and 75% off when a sale hits after 5-6 months after release. Many times games also re-release as GOTY (Game of the Year) editions that include the DLC that I would have otherwise had to pay for. Waiting, as a PC gamer, only increases the value of your purchasing power. Additionally, along with the decrease in the costs of the games, patches and bug fixes typically come out for games in that time, meaning I get to pay less for what's usually a better gaming experience.

In my last series, I mentioned that one can save money by pre-ordering (though this usually only applies to PC games). It has been a recent trend that discounts on the order of 25-30% can be obtained by pre-ordering, which is quite large for a new game. After those pre-order phases end, games go back to their full price, until the inevitable sale. With Steam, sales are fairly frequent. It takes a measure of self-control and willpower to wait the couple months to get the better deal. However, many gamers value the ability to play the game immediately more than the savings they would eventually get from waiting for the price to drop.

Why Not Pre-Order? Anti-Consumer Practices

Vote against bad business practices with your wallet. Just as with political elections based on popular vote, don’t support a side that you don’t agree with.  We have said this time and again here at the Care and Feeding of Nerds.

There are tons of terrible business practices that gaming companies have taken to in the past several years. Some practices can be defended to a degree, while others are simply indefensible to all except the developer’s bottom line. The ONLY way bad practices will ever stop is if the measures themselves become unprofitable.

Game development is a for-profit business. If a game developer finds a trend in gaming that consumers like, consumers will spend money on that trend, which means the developer will make money off of it. If the trend is something the consumers don’t like and the developer loses money from following the trend, then the developer will stop following that trend. In this way, customers have the opportunity to vote with their wallets against practices that are bad for them.

One such practice is game abandonment after launch. Hypothetically: You purchase a brand-new game; you are very excited to play and you jump into playing the game. As you play, you find an increasing number of bugs and glitches that affect the digital world around you, and some that even halt your progression altogether. You go online and check out discussions on the game to find that a majority of other people playing the game are running into the same issues. You are annoyed that the game was launched in such a state. Eventually the developer 

comes forth and announces that they are aware of the issues and that they might choose to fix the bugs that prevent you progressing through the core narrative, but they will not be fixing any other bugs since their efforts will be spent creating DLC. In other words, the developer has just said that milking its player-base for more money with DLC is more important than fixing bugs it is aware of in its game. If you don’t believe this is a real situation, then you are not familiar with what happened with Arkham Origins from Warner Bros. MontrĂ©al. I will not be purchasing any games from that studio again until they change in some meaningful way and I urge you to do the same. This is not how a good company treats its customers.

Other anti-consumer practices would include:
  1.  Pre-order bonuses and discounts to encourage consumers to buy the game without providing opportunities for reviews to either be drafted or seen.
  2. Shady review embargoes so that consumers can’t find information about a game 
  3. Pay-to-win elements in multiplayer games when the multiplayer is supposed to be skill-based (like Evolve, which we don't recommend purchasing)
  4. Micro-transactions and other DLC that are pay-to-win, split the multiplayer community, restore  cut content from the game, or are integral to the main content of the original game 
    This BS makes me crazy.  It should make you crazy too.
  5. DMCA takedown requests on non-infringing use of game content in a transformative nature such as a YouTube review of a game 
  6.  Removal of content from a game that has already been purchased (like Rockstar did with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City)
  7. Shoving games out the door that are literally unplayable (Sim City) or games that are buggy and broken for a large section of the gaming community (Assassin's Creed: Unity) just so they can make their money now rather than wait until the games get to a cleaner, more finished state.
To this point, let’s look at the option of pre-ordering the new Assassin’s Creed: Rogue. After already
There is no defense for the bugs of Unity.
knowing how terrible Assassin's Creed: Unity was for most people, and how poorly optimized Watch Dogs and Far Cry 4 were at launch. It can be said that Ubisoft has a poor track record lately. While the company used to have a reputation for making good quality games, the last several releases from various studios under Ubisoft have been rushed and buggy. The most likely culprit for these results
is that Ubisoft corporate directed the developer studios to release games, regardless of their state, so that Ubisoft corporate could make money sooner. If you don’t want future Ubisoft games to be buggy on release, and want them to remain in development until they are ready, then you need to not buy buggy games on release. That means: don’t pre-order.

There is only one way that companies will stop these practices and that is to make these practices unprofitable. If you just give your money to a company any time they tell you they are planning on releasing a new product, what incentive do they have to make the product good? What incentive do they have to make the product work properly? What incentive do they have to do anything different release after release? If most gamers refused to purchase games from companies that took part in these anti-consumer practices, then the practices would be unprofitable and the companies would stop using them.

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Game Review: Oh My Gods!

We weren’t kidding when we promised you guys loads of awesome games from indie designers. We’re going to keep up the trend of inaugural games as we go from last week’s Singaporean entry back to the members of the Game Makers Guild. Gameworthy Labs comes to us with their fast-paced, Greek mythology themed deduction game, Oh My Gods, which is the focus of a Kickstarter campaign that began earlier today.
Image Credit: Gameworthy Games
As we sat down to play, we were immediately taken with the art of Oh My Gods. The pantheon of Greek gods is rendered as a series of detailed but cartoonish characters, effectively introducing us to the overall tone and feel of the game itself. Aside from eliciting instant smiles, we understood right away that there would be mischief afoot. As we soon found out, though Oh My Gods certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a game you’ll master in a minute.
You are tasked with discerning the identity of the god or goddess that has stolen the fabled lightning bolt of Zeus. At your disposal are the following tools: a small paper grid depicting all the possible suspects, a hand of cards, a small privacy screen, and your wits. With these, you must not only uncover the thief, but do so before your fellow players can do the same.

Play is divided into three phases: searching for clues, guessing the identity of the thief, and playing a god power. To search for clues, players inquire about the cards held by the opponent sitting to their left. The inquiring player will ask to be shown cards that display certain traits or elements, as each card will display one symbol representing each of these categories. If the player who is being interrogated has a card with the requested symbol, he or she must show the inquiring player the requested card.

Your hand of cards is a wealth of both information and power. Each card depicts a member of the pantheon, immediately cluing you in to which of the gods is innocent (if they appear in your hand or are shown to you, they cannot be the thief, whose card is set aside during setup). Aside from allowing you to whittle down the list of suspects, the gods present in your hand possess their own unique ability: the god power mentioned earlier. These powers can range from the defensive (e.g. allowing players to forego sharing details about their hand) to the offensive (e.g. forcing players to show you extra cards from their hands) to the purely informative (e.g. allowing for a peek at one or more cards housed on Olympus).

Olympus has the dual role of font of knowledge and complication to the ongoing investigation. This home of the gods takes the form of four cards arranged face-down in the center of the table. Even if you think you've determined the identity of the thief with some expert deduction, certainty in that conclusion will elude you if you cannot access Olympus.

It's a seemingly simple premise, which, taken in conjunction with the overall aesthetics, will effectively welcome players of all experience levels (the game is recommended for ages 10 and up, which we felt was appropriate). That being said, Oh My Gods will likely satisfy veteran gamers with the depth of strategy it presents. Much of this last point stems from the individual god powers, which are very impressively balanced and attest to the enormous amount of care that went into the making of this game. At no point in our many playthroughs did we encounter a card that felt overpowered and we found ourselves repeatedly surprised at the multitude of synergies and counters that the powers presented with one another.

The game plays very quickly, as we found that our many playthroughs matched the 15 minutes per player estimate on the box, and it is also highly portable, with all of the components fitting neatly into a 6 x 4 inch box (15.24 x 10.16cm). These, taken along with the exquisitely balanced cards and fluid mechanics, translates to an extremely high replayability factor.

Oh My Gods is good-natured, tongue-in-cheek fun that will have all sorts of gamers asking to play another round. Despite its diminutive size, light tone, and brisk play time, Oh My Gods shouldn't be mistaken for 'just' a party game. It's far smarter than your average party game, but doesn't rely on mechanic complexities to convey that cleverness. This makes Oh My Gods one of those rare titles that would be  equally at home during a nerdy dinner party or at your next game night. It can also be an engaging, amusing way to bring any non-gamer friends to the table.

We had so much fun playing this game. It's a finely-honed, well-tested bit of craftsmanship that will have players alternately laughing and shaking their fists at the gods. We enthusiastically recommend Oh My Gods and definitely suggest you check out their Kickstarter today (we certainly will!).
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This Week in Geekdom

It feels so good to be back on a regular publication schedule. Rolling out our new look for the site has been pretty awesome too. Thanks to you guys, the site has been growing pretty much week over week. Given all this goodness, we thought that the interface and overall design could do with an upgrade. Most of what you see now is the handiwork of Kay Luxe Design. We're very happy with Kay's work and hope that you enjoy the new site. We may or may not be having too much fun rolling perpetual nat-20s on our 'Got a Game' dice widget. 

And, for once in what seems like far too long, it's not snowing! <<does a happy dance>> Ok, ok. Enough dancing and more This Week in Geekdom!

Comics

That yawp of joy you may have heard earlier this week was likely from fans of the animated TV series Invader Zim as they learned that their favorite characters will get new life in the form of a new comic series. The series is being published by Oni Press and the first issue will be available in July of this year. Certain authors here at the Care and Feeding of Nerds are doing a happy dance of their own.

Fight Club is getting a sequel, but not on the big screen. The story will continue as a comic. The comic run will be published by Dark Horse and will be available beginning in May of this year.

Games

File this one under: Why would anyone do that? It's a paid app for your phone that plays an RPG by itself, with no input from actual players.

New streaming platform D!ingIt.tv is trying to give Twitch a run for its money so far as broadcasting eSports is concerned? What's D!ingIt? It's this.

On Wednesday a group of Civilization V fanatics deployed their mod that would allow the game to play itself (via 42 different civs).

The long and storied history of one of the first major PC sports titles: Football Manager.

Paradox wants more Goat Simulator, less Call of Duty.

Movies/TV

Cartoon Network has confirmed that it will be rebooting the animated series the Powerpuff Girls. The reboot is slated to launch sometime in 2016.

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is still over a year away, but we got another glimpse into the new DC movieverse this week with this promotional shot of Jason Mamoa as Aquaman.

Speaking of movies we won't be seeing for quite some time, 20th Century Fox has confirmed that it will be working with director Neil Blomkamp (Distrinct 9, Chappie) to develop a new sequel to Aliens. Bonus: this project is completely separate from Prometheus 2.

Science/Technology

Toyota seems to be taking emissions control for its cars very seriously. The automaker has apparently been reviewing research into catalytic converters that have the ability to control car-formed pollutants at the quantum level.

Snow has been the source of more than a few complaints on here during the past month. It turns out that accurately forecasting snowfall is one of the most difficult things meteorologists can do. Here's why.

Real Life Superhero

Our proverbial hats go off to the University of Toronto, whose researchers have set up and provided a 3D printer in order to make cheap, but effective, prosthetics for Ugandans in need.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

We will be getting a new Dr. Seuss book on July 28th. The posthumous title comes to us via a manuscript recently discovered by the author's widow and his secretary.

Though fans of Hellboy won't be getting another movie featuring their favorite character anytime soon, they can console themselves with this Hellboy-inspired beer.

Did you miss Toy Fair 2015 last weekend? No worries, Topless Robot put together this helpful highlight reel of all the best new toys.

For reasons we're still not clear on, the Canadian army has decided to build a real-life version of the Assault Rifle from Halo.

If the real-life Assault Rife isn't available to you, you can get yourself one of these street-legal Master Chief motorcycle helmets.

Well that's certainly one way to make it so. Star Trek fan ThePlanetMike went and built this warp core table lamp. Check it out in action:
Crowdfundables For Your Consideration

On Friday, we got a chance to talk with Dominic of Medieval Lords Games about the innovative secret roles assassination game Hitman Holiday. The campaign for the game is still open if you're up for a bout of sunshine and death.

Another of the active campaigns associated with projects from our Developer Dialogues series is the Kickstarter for Amino. You have 13 more days to get in on the molecule-building fun.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Developer Dialogues: Hitman Holiday

We're absolutely thrilled to bring you guys this edition of Developer Dialogues. Today's conversation is with Dominic of Medieval Lords Games, who comes to use with the very first Singaporean board game to appear on The Care and Feeding of Nerds! His project, Hitman Holiday, is an innovative and engaging take on deduction/secret roles games. 

Imagine knowing that another player is out to assassinate you, and just you. Meanwhile, you are preoccupied not just with your own assigned target, but with the nuances of daily life (albeit life in an idyllic vacation locale). This is just a taste of what Hitman Holiday has in store and Dominic gave us considerably more to chew on. 
Tell us a little about yourself. What prompted you to want to become a developer?
  
I have been a game designer for more than 14 years now, but I was always in larger teams. This is the first time I am trying to venture out on my own. My passion started a long time ago when I was a mere seven year old in school. My friend and I would make board games using just dice and boxes. We would theme everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to He-Man.

Once you decided to put on the developer’s hat, what made you choose a deduction/secret roles group game? Why did you feel this style was a particularly good fit for your vision of Hitman Holiday?

I chose to design a secret role game because this is was going to be our debut game. It had to represent the core of what Medieval Lords intends to be - we want to be very unique and different from the rest of the newer board games appearing everywhere. There are plenty of new games that are mere copies of previous games, with 1 or 2 rules tweaked and then a change of art. Hitman Holiday is kind of a testimonial of what the brains behind Medieval Lords are all about - being different. Not just this game, but all future potential games will also be going via very interesting themes and mechanics that are rarely seen or even exist in the tabletop universe.

The game is touted as being extremely easy to learn, but a highly satisfying overall play experience. How long would you say it takes people to pick up Hitman Holiday and what demographics do you think would most enjoy the game?

I wouldn't know about it being 'extremely easy' to learn. Honestly there is a reason we do not call this a party game where people could just pick the game up in seconds. It is a strategy game that can handle up to as many as 10 players, but it is no party game. I have already hosted more public games than I can count to spread awareness of Hitman Holiday. Each time the explanation was approximately 10 to 20 minutes. The game is really very simple, with only 3 things you can really do in your turn, but it is not 'extremely easy' to be taught the gist of the game.

In other words, the game takes time to explain, but once done it is very rare that people would still come up with questions. Age is not really the demographic here. It is more of player genre. I would not expect silent and conservative groups to enjoy this game. This game caters to those who really like to shout loudly in accusations, pretend or act in ways so that they can trick others into doing or thinking things that go in their advantage. It really is a game for fun loving extroverts or actors. I think it is pretty safe to say that folks who enjoy Mafia, Werewolf or Battlestar Galactica will find this a refreshing way to play their favorite genre of deception and deduction.
There's no camping a spot on this gorgeous board

The deduction/secret roles market is pretty competitive with both major publishers and indie developers in the field. What would you say makes Hitman Holiday distinctive from others in the genre?

None has ever featured having to cater to daily needs in realism (going to toilet, taking meals and naps). None! And this mechanism was not introduced just to make the game unique. It had its design purpose of preventing camping on the map as well as giving other players opportunities to perform their kills on unsuspecting victims. And none in the tabletop universe have ever had the 'Traits and Clues matching' system to deduce who one's potential killer is. Again, none! Hitman Holiday may not be the BEST game in the world, but it certainly is UNIQUE and different from other games. Further design flavoring decisions such as making the assassins not look like the usual James Bond serve to make the game all that much more fun and distinctive.

The artwork and overall aesthetic of  the game is very visually striking. What was your inspiration for the look and feel of the game?

Since it was decided that we wanted to do an assassin game, we had to come up with a locale. A very interesting one that would totally spike up the usually gloomy mood of such dark games is a beach holiday resort! We chose to host the site of the assassins' 'tournament' at the world's most beautiful beach resort, aptly named Paradise. The setting is deliberately Italian, and we wanted the original flavor to be there, so we even got an Italian artist! It should be very colorful and give a Hawaii-like feel of a happy vacation, then peppered with the deadly intent hidden at every corner. Again, this brings the game into a whole class of its own in terms of being unique.

What do you feel was the most enjoyable part of developing Hitman Holiday and, conversely, what would you say was your biggest challenge?

The most enjoyable part was playing the finished product with friends who enjoy acting and bluffing. We had blast after blast of fun, openly declaring and accusing one another. It was a great sense of satisfaction that the game was finally playable after one and a half years of development! The biggest challenge is to bring the game to market, which since we do not live in the USA, disallows us to demo our games at important conventions etc.

Let’s say your Kickstarter campaign goes smashingly well. Would you be open to continuing to develop Hitman Holiday? What would your first improvements to the game be?

YES! We actually were just talking about it the other day that there might possibly be a small expansion to add another 10 assassins and another map so players can alternate locations! We were thinking of the place being a huge abandoned castle in Europe.

Is there anything else that you think potential backers and players should know about Hitman Holiday?

If you are a collector of games, this could be a must-have for you. I don't mean just the game play itself, but rather the collection value of it. Owning this game makes you a part of history, hah! It is the FIRST ever Singaporean board game that is on an international coverage via Kickstarter.

What to know more? Check out the Kickstarter page for Hitman Holiday right now! You can even pick up the print-and-play demo version of the game. The campaign will continue until March 12th.
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GiR by GIR: Hand of Fate

Hand of Fate was a game I didn’t know I wanted or needed until after I had it. A rogue-"lite" deck building action RPG, Hand of Fate is the result of a well-run Kickstarter by Defiant Development  that originally took place back in December of 2013. Reading the first part of the last sentence aloud makes me realize why I probably passed it over at its inception. It’s really a game that sells itself better through experience than clumsy catch phrases or tags, but I plan to do my best explaining why I found it so charming and why you might too.
The player approaches a table where a shrouded elder who acts as a DM/Narrator beckons you with a deck of swirling cards. These cards are the primary source of interaction in the game. Each session will begin with the Narrator shuffling the cards you have chosen, as well as add in some of his own. The cards are then laid out in a random pattern to create the board on which you’ll move the player token towards the ultimate goal of finding the Boss at the end of a zone. Defeating said Boss allows the player to claim a trophy, which provides various benefits such as new cards and stat boosts. As you progress through the central story and unlock cards you’ll eventually be able to customize the Reward and Encounter Decks how you see fit, though I tended to stick to the “Recommended Configuration” for the most part.  
As you explore and flip over cards, the Narrator will describe the consequences of your actions. The cards can be anything from finding equipment, gold, or much needed food, to side quests, mazes full of traps, or monster ambushes. Various vendor cards seem common enough, allowing the player to spend gold or sell off excess gear for upgrades, remove curses, or grant blessings, some of which seemed more useful than others.
Some encounters will be resolved through picking the correct card out of a face-down line up at the Narrator’s table, but often these revealed events will lead to a real-time action segment. The player will be dropped into a third person setting and tasked with hacking, slashing, and running their way through a simple combat map or maze. I was slightly disappointed in how small some areas were as each setting I found was lush and vibrant with color and detail. The action elements are lifted heavily from your typical Batman/God of War/Sleeping Dogs type games: one button to attack, one to counter when you see the indicator, one to dodge roll, etc. So the combat mechanics are serviceable , but not as unique or rich as the presentation Hand of Fate had provided for the game as a whole.
However, I quickly learned that, while combat wasn’t exactly difficult or taxing for anyone familiar with action games, the thing most likely to kill you was Starvation or the Narrator’s Punishment cards. Every new card explored uses food and though successfully completing a card event often grants Rewards (which MAY contain food) there is no guarantee you'll get what you need. 150 gold isn’t really helpful when you only have 2 apples left with a dozen or more cards left to reveal before you may advance. Even if you manage your resources well, you never know what consequences there can be when the Narrator draws Punishment cards for revealed Failures, or the dreaded Huge Failure, which, at one point, dropped my food and health reserves to low single digits on what was otherwise a flawless run. This is, of course, to be expected as Hand of Fate is a rogue-lite. That said, I use that term because, even through Huge Failures or a gamble that turns out poorly, the cards you unlock on any given run remain in your collection at the end, to be incorporated into your encounter and rewards deck for future use.            
The unique blend of ideas coupled with wonderful presentation won me over in the end and took some of the sting out of the harsh rogue elements. While some players might find themselves ground down by frequent failures or slightly repetitive nature of Hand of Fate, I found it no worse than FTL or Rogue Legacy. If you missed the chance to back this on Kickstarter, like I did, the full release is out now on Steam for $20 until 2/24 (after that it jumps back up to $25) and is well worth the price in my opinion; so go ahead and tempt fate! (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist) 

*Hand of Fate was reviewed on PC using a controller, but is also slated to release soon for PS4, Vita, and other platforms.  
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Gias Glance: Sending the Gaming Industry a Message (Part 1)


We have asked and answered “Why Pre-Order?” but it’s also important to ask “Why Not Pre-Order?” This article will be the first in a series of posts that will attempt to answer the question “Why Not Pre-Order?”


In my previous three-part series, I addressed the most common reasons why people pre-order games and why each reason either does or does not have merit. In this installment, I’ll be giving you the reasons that have turned me off of pre-ordering games. Additionally, I’ll also be addressing ad business practices within the video game industry in general, since the two issues are so closely related. As with the previous series, I’d like to make it clear that I’m not saying “people are not allowed to pre-order games.” I’m stating that it’s a bad idea to pre-order games most of the time. I’m not telling people what to do with their money. You're capable of exercising rational judgement: use your money wisely, or don’t, it’s your choice.


[Please note: these articles are not meant to address pre-ordering with regards to Nintendo games. I consider pre-ordering Nintendo games a separate topic and discussion for another time since Nintento's business practices are so very different from that of the rest of the industry. These articles are aimed at non-Nintendo video game developers.]
Why Not Pre-Order?  Bad Games

There’s one main reason why gamers play games: entertainment. We want to enjoy ourselves and not be bored. We spend so much money and many hours on this passion of ours. It’s the same reason why people watch TV, watch movies, read books, and listen to 

music. We do all of this because we enjoy it. However, not every game is going to be entertaining, just as not every movie, book, TV show, or song is going to be compelling. Sometimes in the medium that we enjoy, there are entries which are poorly created. Those items can end up being lackluster.

When purchasing a game, how is a gamer to know if they are going to enjoy their experience? As with pretty much every other item available for purchase, this can be accomplished by reading reviews prior to purchasing the item. Game reviewers often are able to give us first impressions before a game releases. Impressions from beta testers and people who demoed that game at a convention can also help form early impressions of the game without having consumer feedback. What would you say about a person who purchased a brand-new car without having researched how well the car was made or designed? There are many readily available free resources for 

discovering the quality and reception of items for purchase before purchasing them. A consumer just needs to wait for a product to be released in order to discover the product’s quality without risking their own money. Reviews are typically released at least the same day as the item, or, on occasion, several days before release of the item.

Information is the most powerful tool for consumers. It informs us as to the value and quality of potential purchases. It can save us from wasting money that could have otherwise been spent on a 

better product. If every single purchaser of Sim City 2013 knew ahead of time that the game would be literally unplayable for weeks after release (editor's note: read here to find out why) then very few, if any, people would have purchased the game at release. They would have at least waited until it was playable. The only way to discover information like that, as to whether a game is playable, is to either wait for reviews (just a single day after release) or to buy the game themselves. Why spend $60 to get the information when it can be obtained for free? 

Remember the reception of Superman 64? It was one of the worst games ever made. I have never heard a person speak positively about it, nor any fanaticism defending the game. If you were the type of person to blindly pre-order a game without waiting for review information on its quality, you risk getting a game like Superman 64: a horrible un-fun experience that is nothing more than a waste of money. If you care about spending your money on fun experiences that entertain you, then what reason could you have for not doing your research first? Would you research a car? Would you research a computer? Then why not research a game?


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Game Review: Find It & Bind It

Hi everyone. What do you think of the new site? The redesign has been in the works for a little while and we hope this makes your interactions with the Care and Feeding of Nerds more fun and user-friendly. A huge shout-out to Kay Luxe Design who coded the new site!

There have been a couple of excited mentions of new indie board games being brought your way and now we can follow through on that hype. Over the next few weeks several members of the Game Makers Guild are launching crowdfunding campaigns for their projects and we've had the opportunity to play quite a few of these. As such, we can give you the complete lowdown on these games so you have a full cache of information at your disposal as you decide which projects you may want to lend your support to.

Since we're talking about independently developed games that are either currently without a publisher or are aiming to self-publish as part of their crowdfunding efforts, we will not be assigning grades or ratings to these projects. The idea is to provide you with information so you can be happy in your decision to back a project or not. Instead, we'll summarize our reviews with recommendations and let you know if we plan on contributing. 
First on the docket is Find It & Bind It by Cray Cray Games. If the title sounds familiar, you might be recalling our Developer Dialoguewith Cray Cray Games that included many a mention of Find It & Bind It. (If you haven't read that post, we highly recommend you do so before continuing with this one.) The Kickstarter for this rapid-fire card-based game went live earlier today, so what's it all about?

Players of Find It & Bind It take on the role of witches on a quest to find the Book of Shadows and bind it to their bidding before rival covens (fellow players) can do the same. The Book of Shadows is hidden amidst a grid of eight other cards much like the layout pictured below.
To discern the location of the Book, players must tactfully move their two witch tokens over the cards in the grid in conjunction with using various spell cards from their hands to peek at what lies under the cards their tokens rest on. Meanwhile, your fellow players (or perhaps you yourself) aren't going to make the hunt for the Book easy. The spell cards you have at your disposal can be used to rearrange the cards in the grid, steal information from other players, and thwart their attempts to win the game.
You'll have up to three spells like these in your hand

Find It & Bind It is meant to be lightning-fast, with games usually lasting about 30 minutes or so. Part of the game's appeal is how quickly rounds unfold, even if you have a maximum-sized contingent of four players (it can accommodate as few as two players). Not only do you have to track down the Book of Shadows and throw your friends off the scent, but you're doing all this with a fair measure of speed. That's not to say that you're actually at the mercy of a timer, just that the number of options available to you on a given turn lends itself to a brisk flow of play. Also, moving quickly tends to create a certain measure of pressure on your fellow players, which can work in your favor.

The game is also highly portable, with the vast majority of the components being cards and the space required to get few rounds in taking up only a scant few square feet. It's the kind of game that'd you'd be grateful to have in your backpack while waiting with friends at the airport or in line for a convention event.  That being said, Find It & Bind It would be just as at home on your gaming table.

As mentioned above, the game is predominately card-based; the cards themselves are crisp and adorned with richly colored examples of classical art. Fans of Van Gogh, Gheyn, and Goya will get more than a bit of eye candy in addition to fast-paced deduction, even if you should back at a print-and-play tier.

Cray Cray Games has already come up with not one, but two expansions for Find It & Bind It: the Demon and the Hexes and Relics. The former introduces the eponymous Demon who hides in the tableau and causes all sorts of mischief for the players as he attempts to bind the Book of Shadows for himself. The latter ups the ante of the base game by increasing the hand size to four cards, allowing players additional leeway to gather and deploy the titular Hexes and Relics both of which, as you may have guessed, pack quite a bit of a supernatural punch. These expansions may very well end up in the stretch goals of the current funding campaign.

Find It & Bind It has proven to be addictive with fans of deductive games and those who love playthroughs that come in well under an hour. It's a good 'bridge' game if you find yourself in the company of both veteran and newer gamers, as the mechanics are non-superficial but are also not so numerous or complex as to be overwhelming. In that spirit, the depth of strategy available will appeal to more experienced players. The title also has a robust online community, with the guys at Cray Cray Games responding to questions and clarifying rules on a regular basis via their Facebook page.

If any or all of the above piqued your interest, then check out the Kickstarter page for Find It & Bind It. The campaign will be running through March 30th.
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This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend everyone; hope you're all warm and having fun. If you guessed that we're being buried under another incarnation of the Snowpocalypse right now, claim your gold star because you're right. Seriously, this is the fourth major storm/blizzard that's come our way in as many weeks. There is now over seven feet (2.13 meters) of the white stuff on the ground right now, but we're not about to let it get us down. We're under three weeks out from PAX East and we have a host of awesome indie board games (and hopefully one fun surprise) headed your way. But, while we're whiling away these frigid hours, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.
Comics

DC is gearing up to introduce a new superhero, Midnighter. Who is this member of the Authority? Well, here's where you can get to know him better.

It was less than two decades ago that Marvel was barely scraping by, clinging by their fingernails over the yawning pit of bankruptcy. How did they go from such desperation to the juggernaut they are now? Here's how.

Movies/TV

On Tuesday it was announced that Sony would relinquish its exclusive hold on Spider-Man, allowing the webslinger to appear in Marvel films. In a near-immediate follow-up, Marvel announced the release dates for its third phase of movies.

Games

Just Cause 3 is set to hit the market later this year, but details concerning the game have been frustratingly scarce for those eagerly awaiting its arrival. This is a compendium of what we know so far.

Science/Technology

Could the entirety of the prevailing theory concerning the origins of the known universe be wrong? A joint research venture by Benha University in Egypt and the University of Lethbridge in Canada indicates that the Big Bang may never have occurred at all.

The basic interior layout of the Earth is often our first foray into geology, but new research, published in the most recent edition of Nature Geoscience, indicates that this fundamental lesson may need an update. The Earth's core may have more components than we've been giving it credit for.

Over 10 million passwords and login credentials were released into the wilds of the interwebs this week. Was your information amongst those? Here's how you can find out.

Our favorite real-life Tony Stark/Bond villain Elon Musk asked us all this week why his company's batteries, currently used to power shiny Intergalactic Space Boats of Light and Wonder cars, couldn't also be used to power homes.

Facebook would like you to take a moment and think about how your digital life will be managed after you shuffle off this mortal coil. 

What were the first words ever spoken? Researchers at the University of Reading in the UK have developed a model that may provide us with an answer.

Crowdfundables for Your Consideration

If you haven't already, check out the campaign page for Amino. We talked about Amino a little while back and there are still 20 days to get in on the Kickstarter. Don't miss out on this fast and clever game!

Feats of Nerdery/General Awesomeness

Computer scientist Randy Olson dedicated a lot of time and effort to developing the optimal strategy with which to find Waldo.

The International Space Station is about to undergo a crew change. The astronauts and scientists of Expedition 45 are raring for their moment in space by channeling their inner (and apparently outer) Jedi.

32 years ago Pepperidge Farm made an exclusive line of Star Wars themed cookies. This is how they appear in the present day.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Game Review - XCOM: The Board Game

This is a subject we've been waiting to talk about with you guys for much of the past six months, pretty much from the minute we walked away from the demo table at Gen Con 2014. After Fantasy Flight encountered some production delays and we dealt with some snow-related shipping snafus we finally got our hands on XCOM: the Board Game (and sent out the grand prize to our giveaway winner). After some deep inhalations of New Game Smell and the always-satisfying popping of chits we were ready to defend the Earth against extraterrestrial hostiles. The tiniest bit of apprehension hung in the air: were our convention memories too rose-colored or would the game be as awesome as we recalled?
It's every ounce of what we experienced at the demo table and then some.

It's not a flawless title, but XCOM definitely delivers some of the most satisfying and addictive play we've seen in several years. Let's dive right into the details, shall we?

Theme and Presentation

It's no secret that we at the Care and Feeding of Nerds are pretty big fans of the XCOM franchise. Between the three of us, we've logged around a thousand total hours if you were to sum up our time played in each of the titles in the series. So we came into the board game with a reasonably good idea of what makes XCOM feel like XCOM. 

Two key components of that XCOM-y feel are a high level of tension and a near-visceral attachment to your soldiers. The board game manages to capture both of these, and does so manner that feels true to the franchise while also allowing for solid strategy and play. We’ll get to each of these in more detail in the sections below but, for now, just know that you will not be disappointed in how the game will make you feel.
You will also not likely be disappointed either in the overall look or the physical components of the game. The board, cards, tokens, and chits draw exclusively from the grim, dark imagery of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM: Enemy Within and boast the quality that you’ve likely come to expect from a Fantasy Flight title. Akin to many of its other recent offerings, Fantasy Flight left the tokens monochromed to allow for player customization if you’re into mini painting, but the detail is still striking even if you choose to keep them unadorned.

All this translates into an immediate sense of familiarity for those veterans of the XCOMiverse. However, even if you have never played a single digital incarnation of the franchise, there’s no doubt as to the gravity of the theme being presented.

The App

When it debuted last August, the companion app for XCOM: the Board Game instantly became arguably the most divisive topic in board games (for a little while at least). If you are one of those gamers who took umbrage at the notion of digital components in your board games, then it's highly unlikely that anything we say here will persuade you otherwise. In all honesty, we found that the app was one of the strongest facets of the entire game. 

Fantasy Flight was well aware that this innovation would have to deliver a compelling, bug-free component to the game in order to have it be accepted by the masses and we feel that they were successful in this endeavor. The app is fast, free, and is the unquestionable lynchpin of any given playthrough. It’s available on the majority of digital platforms and can be played from a desktop/laptop or a mobile device.

While it was initially disconcerting to open the box and see that a brief overview was the only printed material that accompanied the game, we quickly fell in love with having a fully hyperlinked and dynamic rulebook at our fingertips. There's no flipping back and forth as you try to shed light on an in-game situation. The app does an excellent job of not only presenting the rules in a very user-friendly format, but anticipating the sorts of questions you're likely to have mid-playthrough and making that information readily accessible.

Aside from being the de facto rulebook, the app is the primary driver of actual gameplay. It presents players with setups and scenarios that are tailored to the number of participants and the desired difficulty level. It also dispenses and accounts for almost all of the action during the Timed Phase of the game, which we’ll explore more in just a moment. Lastly, it provides some of the heftier immersion points in the form of simple but compelling graphics, tactful sound effects, and a background soundtrack guaranteed to get your heart racing.

Core Mechanics

Gameplay is bifurcated into the Timed Phase and the Resolution Phase. The Timed Phase is governed almost entirely by the app, which dictates the order by which each player may act as well as provides environmental effects, like alerts that new UFOs have spawned over various continents. This portion of the game is literally named, as the app displays a countdown clock ticking away the seconds available for each player action. Just knowing that you’re under the proverbial gun creates a certain level of tension, but having a very precise timer (which displays down to the hundreth of a second) and potentially a fellow player also counting down puts everyone effectively on edge.

There may be a collective exhalation of relief when the app declares an end to the Timed Phase and a momentary luxuriating in the idea that you can take some time to digest what’s happened and formulate a plan of action before the Resolution Phase begins. The Resolution Phase is free of the merciless timer and also abides by the same schedule of events each round, as opposed to the randomness inherent to the Timed Phase. This is also where each of the four requisite player Roles get their individual chance to contribute.

The four Roles are unique functions that players take on and must be filled during each playthrough (the app provides suggestions on how to double up Roles if there are fewer than four players). You can pick from the Commander, the Central Officer, the Chief Scientist, and the Squad Leader. The Commander resolves Crises, balances the budget, and controls all Interceptor units in their battle against UFOs in the atmosphere. The Central Officer defends Earth’s orbit with satellites and relays all pertinent information from the app, as this player is in charge of whatever device you’re using. The Chief Scientist manages the research process, attempting to develop technology that will give the players a desirable edge. The Squad Leader controls all ground units, dispatching troops to various missions as well as defending the XCOM HQ.

All of the roles utilize the same dice-rolling mechanic to make the various checks required of them. The Board Game includes a set of custom six-siders representing human efforts and a red eight-sided die standing as the omnipresent alien threat. Checks require a certain number of successes, but these are tough to come by as each die has only two success icons (the remainder of the faces being stark, blank blue). Not only must players garner successes, but they must also avoid low rolls on the eight-sided alien die. Each time a player attempts a roll and does not obtain all the necessary successes the Threat Level increases, thus increasing the probability that the aliens will thwart your efforts and cause the players to incur losses.These losses can add up quickly and have dire consequences for the playthrough. Furthermore, the Threat Level heightens the existing tension by forcing players to push their luck or otherwise be forced to make very difficult choices.  
Will you be the big hero or will you cost your team the game?
Playthroughs and Replayability

The game can be played with any number of players up to a maximum of four. It also includes a single-player option which, based on our experience with the 2-player version, we imagine to be extremely difficult. Base playtime is listed at 1-2 hours, which we found to be pretty accurate.

The replayability factor with XCOM: The Board Game is very high. Between the number of missions, the customizable scenarios, the relatively short playing time, and the variable difficulty levels the game is Arkham-ish in that no two playthroughs will really be the same (aside from the tutorial). The only factors that may limit frequent play is the initial setup process (though this is far less involved than Arkham Asylum or Twilight Imperium) and frustrations stemming from repeated defeats.
Revel in your victory!

And that last point is another facet of the XCOMiverse that The Board Game gets right: victories, even those on the easier difficulties, are hard-fought. Periods of stability, wherein you and your fellow players feel like you just might have a handle on things, are uncommon and fleeting. A lot of considerations are thrown at you in the frantic bursts of the Timed Phase and it may take some practice in order to devise effective strategies to optimize all four Roles. For this reason, The Board Game would not likely be a good fit for casual gamers or newcomers to board gaming. Those veterans of Arkham will know the feeling that The Board Game exudes: that wins are a welcome exception rather than the rule.

While The Board Game is solidly cooperative, one of its few flaws is the potential imbalances between the four Roles. The Roles themselves are very well defined, but the randomness of the scenarios and missions may cause instances wherein one Role is overwhelmed with activity while another Role gets left with very little to do. This sort of thing is an inevitable byproduct of a game with so many moving parts and, fortunately, instances like the aforementioned scenario would likely be limited to a single playthrough (and wouldn't really factor into games with fewer than four players).

All in all, XCOM: The Board Game is an excellent offering that will provide hours of fun for those gamers who love strategy and a solid measure of intensity in their board games. Fans of the franchise will also likely enjoy the title quite a bit. (Warning: playing The Board Game may prompt you to put in more hours with one or more of the video games.)

Final Grade: A

XCOM: The Board Game is now available for purchase on Fantasy Flight's website, Amazon.com, other online retailers, and at your friendly local game store.
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