19 June 2015

Descent 2nd Edition Painted Miniatures, Part 1

For a long time I looked for a dungeon-delving board game the likes of Milton Bradley's HeroQuest, which I had largely ignored as a teenager in favor of more complex RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. As an adult and father, I wanted something easier to teach my kids and to play in a single sitting, with more emphasis on miniatures than role-playing. Unfortunately, HeroQuest is outdated, and maybe slightly too simplistic. After checking out some of D&D's own beginner games and others like it, I decided Descent: Journeys in the Dark Second Edition was the best combination of quality, quantity, and compelling rules. Though not perfect and certainly a bit more complicated than advertised, it has been an extremely enjoyable hobby. I've been playing for a few years now, primarily with a group of friends in a monthly game night, but also with my wife and kids.

One thing I knew I'd never do, though, is paint the little plastic miniatures, which is otherwise a time-honored tradition in this arena. I just wasn't committed enough and doubted my artistic ability. Then my brother Michael - one of the regular players in my monthly group - acquired Imperial Assault, a Star Wars-themed version of Descent made by the same company (Fantasy Flight Games). He quickly painted his miniatures, and realizing he had a knack for it, offered to paint some of mine, too. Since I own the base game of Descent and most of the expansions, I doubted he'd be able to paint very many of them. Instead, he has now nearly finished my current collection, and the results have been phenomenal!

I never could have guessed how much it adds to the experience to play with painted figures. Some might wish they came painted already, but I've thoroughly enjoyed waiting to see my brother's latest work. Though I've been a bit stingy about sticking to the artwork, he has added just enough creative touches and stylistic choices for these to bear his signature, which is way more meaningful to me than figures painted in a factory. So naturally, I have to show them off! I can't do it all in one post, so to start out, here are the figures from the base game campaign, "The Shadow Rune." Michael took the pictures, too, but stood them on Imperial Assault map tiles because he didn't have access to mine (they look identical from a distance).

13 June 2015

"Jurassic World" Review

I thought Jurassic Park: The Game by Telltale Games (2011) was a worthy sequel to the first film, whether or not it's considered canon. (Does it really matter in this series?) Not only did it feature all the same dinosaurs and settings, but also puzzle-solving game-play clearly inspired by all the technological challenges in the movie - even an explanation why "Push to Close" is the button for restoring electrical power. It fleshed out the character Harding (albeit a younger version), whose story deviated from his role in the book but explained what he was doing during the events of the movie following his brief appearance with the sick triceratops. Setting it during and immediately following the movie was a great way to capitalize on its urgency and the audience's nostalgia. What's more, it beat the new movie Jurassic World to introducing a Mosasaurus threat and the first on-screen death of a female character (by the mosasaur in both cases, oddly enough).

Despite all that, the game was criticized for being more a movie than a game, and not many are likely to "see" it as a result of that hybrid nature. Fortunately, Jurassic World is a nostalgic sequel in its own right, featuring a more impressive hybrid in the Indominus rex. (See what I did there?)

I loved the first movie and went on to read the book much younger than I probably should have. My copy is so used it fits my hands like a well worn baseball mitt. I must have reread Dennis Nedry's death scene the most, since that page is so exhausted it's falling out. Prior and after this, I was known for an obsession with dinosaurs and often bragged that one of the first words I could spell was "paleontologist." My point is, I went to Jurassic World fully expecting a nostalgic experience, but I also walked out wondering where the line is between "nostalgic" and "predictable."

I wrote my own sequel to Jurassic Park when I was eleven or twelve. Like Crichton's actual sequel, Lewis Dodgson was the villain, but I also contrived a way to get the entire original (surviving) cast back on the exact same island for pretty much the exact same tour. The kids ended up stranded with Grant again, and when he played another playful prank on them (as in the movie), Tim said, "That was another good one!" Fan fiction at its least creative.

Jurassic World does a much better job than me or either of the other movie sequels at recreating the original. (Spoilers follow.)