Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best scifi games I played in 2013 - micro review edition

By no means is this a comprehensive list of games I've played this year, but I wanted to touch on a few of great games I got to play in 2013...before the ball drops! No RPGs here (disqualifying my own games as well). Here's a glimpse back...

I got this with a gift certificate and a nice fat discount last Christmas at the Source. The box is big, heavy, and filled with goodies. Eclipse is a 4X game, meaning it focuses on exploration, expansion of empires, exploiting resources, and exterminating rivals.

Gameplay is not for the faint of heart--make no mistake this is a longer, extremely detail-oriented game, but it's a ton of fun. You pick a race and build the game board (laying down hex tiles) as you explore the universe. You have the option of attacking or building alliances and you've got to manage the resources you've acquired. Ultimately though, you will end up battling your foes using space armadas you've amassed and outfit with the latest tech.

It takes a full evening (4 hours or so) to learn properly. But the setting is immersive and the rules are extremely well orchestrated. This is precisely the 4X space game you've been pining for!

ALIENS...with action figures

This was a game I played at Con of the North and thoroughly enjoyed. It's basically a scaled-up version of the classic 1989 board game using highly detailed 6" action figures and an entirely custom-built gameboard and terrain. I detailed my experiences in a previous post, so check that for the full story.

The short, short version is it's basically an action figure skirmish game with a refined rule set. I can see this being adapted for just about any army-guy kinda' game you can imagine. Oh, and the dude who made this enormous game board included LASER POINTERS because line of sight is CRITICAL to gameplay. That's gameplay cranked to 11, my friends.

Star Command (touch screen video game)

I've been a booster for my share of Kickstarters over the last couple of years, but none had more promise in it's premise than Star Command. Boy did it deliver! The developers, Warballoon Games, rendered the game as a low-res pixel-y, nostalgia-fest, but don't rely on looks alone to win over players.

At it's core, Star Command is essentially a Star Trek-style exploration and space combat game that hearkens back to classics like X-Com and my beloved Star Control. You meet a variety of interesting and colorful alien species, make friends with some, do your best to vaporize others.

You pick a ship type, name it, even pick it's color combination. Along the way, you upgrade using tokens you win in battle. The ships starts out pretty much empty and you add engineering, science, command, and weapons modules. You also hire crew and build up their skills for better performance.

Don't have great shields? Better make sure your redshirts are good at phaser-to-phaser combat, because your aft is getting boarded. Oh and be sure to outfit your ship with more than one type of weapon or you're bringing a knife to a disruptor fight.

In short, Star Command is awesome. It's everything a wannabe starship captain could want. I should mention that the game was overdue in development, but new content is on the way, as well as playability on PC and Mac platforms other than Android and IOS. (I play on my Galaxy phone set).

So those are a few of my favorites from this year. What games did you enjoy in 2013?

New Guardians of the Galaxy image with ROCKET RACCOON!

Feast your eyes on the Guardians of the Galaxy cast as their characters (click image to embiggen). And we finally get a look at Rocket Raccoon as he'll be realized on screen!

Via Newsarama

Via io9

X-Wing on clearance!

Space gamers take note! Picked up a couple of these Star Wars X-Wing game sets from Fantasy Flight Games for half price at Target. (Get 'em while you can!)

For $20 you get three ships, game board pieces, dice, and more--which is pretty sweet when you consider expansion pack sets typically contain only one ship plus a few game pieces and run about $15 each.

Looking forward to breaking these out in 2014!

VIDEO: Star Wars the "80s anime" knows how to improve Luke's character

In the "what if" universe that is the Internet, this Star Wars "anime" mashup rightfully makes a pensive, brooding Luke dealing with his "feels" the center of the narrative. Bonus: Millennium Falcon + X-wing = Voltron!

Also, why the hell didn't Lucas make Luke's mechanical hand INTO HIS LIGHTSABER? I think we all can agree, that would have been a welcome upgrade. And jedi powers should totally need to be called upon in order to "activate".

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Saturday Star Control: Erol Otus' space combat art

A bit late on the post, but hey, the holidays are still upon us. Here's another Erol Otus work from the first game manual showing a Spathi (alien) spaceship enjoying "A Rare Frontal Spathi Attack." The title alludes to their well known lack of confidence in ship-to-ship conflicts.

Friday, December 27, 2013

KUNG FURY is probably the greatest thing ever.

The official description says it all:

KUNG FURY is an over-the-top action comedy written and directed by David Sandberg. The movie features: arcade-robots, dinosaurs, nazis, vikings, norse gods, mutants and a super kung fu-cop called Kung Fury, all wrapped up in an 80s style action packed adventure. 
Admit it, you've run games just like this! KUNG FURY looks like the long lost buddy cop partner of Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon. They're a match made in mashup heaven!

I bet that you, like me, will find it impossible to believe that the filmmakers have run out of money, because no one in their right mind would let this not get made. But somehow it's true and they've launched a Kickstarter. This injustice cannot be allowed to continue. Let's make it happen!

via /film

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday Star Control: Otus' glassy-eyed pilot

Erol Otus' aliens make another appearance in the Star Control I game manual--this piece is called "Fighter Pilot Considering its Options." The names on some of these pieces make me wonder if Otus delivered a number of untitled pieces and the dude laying out the book came up with the captions. 

Of course, the picture doesn't map to any of the alien races featured in the game, so that might be why "it" (not he or she!) has been relegated to a laserfire magnet in a nondescript starfighter. Either way, he's freaky cool lookin'!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Our lives are all poorer without "Star Wars 1313"

This one's a heartbreaker.

First-person shooter/RPG, Star Wars 1313 was one of the casulaties of the LucasArts acquisition by Disney. Though deep into development, it was axed and the dev team was let go.

It's a terrible tragedy on a number of levels. Besides the loss of employment for hundreds of staff, the game itself looks (looked?) incredible. The graphics and motion capture appear cinematic--and I say that without an ounce of hyperbole. This would have been a truly immersive action/adventure game with the story points flowing seamlessly into gameplay.

While the game won't be released, at least we have this video to see some of the more intriguing concepts that would have been introduced into the Star Wars universe.

Here's a rundown of elements that you still could use to inspire your Star Wars or sci-fi pen-and-paper RPG campaigns:
  • Game takes place in the underworld of Coruscant (captial of the galaxy)--more than a thousand levels (1,313 to be exact!) below the surface of the metropolis-laiden planet. There's a quick line about how the environment is different below the surface (maybe needing a mask filter to breath?)
  • Giant conduits allow for small-to-medium sized vessels to move between levels (think Cleopatra 2525!)
  • The game was invisioned arounds bounty hunters, specifically Boba FettMid-air ship-to-ship battles! Zip line raids! 18th century pirate-style combat!
  • Seems to be a "streetwar of mercenaries," I'd wager that deciding who to be alligned with and when to switch sides would be a big factor in successful mission completion
Here's some recovered imagery from the game's development:

Hover shafts lead to the subterranean city levels...

Denizens of the underbelly...

A bounty hunter's paradise...

Monday, December 16, 2013

TRAILER: Teaser for Chris Nolan's "Interstellar"

Well the bumpercrop of new movie previews should tell you that trailer season is in full bloom! Here's the teaser (which uses mostly historical footage) for the much-anticipated-around-these-parts Interstellar from director Chris Nolan. As a big fan of Inception and his interpretation of Batman, I'm really looking forward to this one. My guess is he's setting up the tone of the film with this first teaser.

Here's the official description:
In the future, governments and economies across the globe have collapsed, food is scarce, NASA is no more, and the 20th Century is to blame. A mysterious rip in spacetime opens and it’s up to whatever is left of NASA to explore and offer up hope for mankind. Mainly based on the scientific theories and script treatment of renowned theoretical physicist, Kip Thorne.

Looks like it's set to come out around Christmas of next year.

Via Laughing Squid

Interstellar official movie site

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday Star Control: Alien nursery by Erol Otus

Here's another Otus piece from the Star Control I game manual, "Mycon Growing New Crew."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

TRAILER: Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise

In a previous existence "Edge of Tomorrow" was called "All You Need is Kill," and based on the novel of the same name. It's a fitting turn of events, since the story revolves around re-living the day of an alien invasion. But this time our Bill Murray in "Groundhog's Day" is Tom Cruise. And instead of a weather man, he's a power-suit wearing dude. Emily Blunt also stars.

So, can we just get him a helmet? Seriously dude, you keep running around like that and you're gonna get yer 'ead blown clean off!

Release date: June 6, 2014.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

TRAILERS! Jupiter Ascending! Godzilla! Spider-Man!


Here's a heapin' helpin' of the latest sci-fi trailers to hit the web. First up is a new space opera by Matrix-makers, the Wachowski's!

Jupiter Ascending opens on July 25, 2014.

NO MAN'S SKY (Video Game)

Next is another space-opera-y trailer for an immersive video game called No Man's Sky from Hello Games. Not only do the graphics look gorgeous--they're all in-game shots.

Apparently NMS was made by only four developers and no one had even heard of it until it's trailer debuted at VGX (formerly known as Spike TV's Video Game Awards) a few days ago. Can't seem to track down a release date yet, but it's being developed for PC, XBox, and PS4.


Here's the one for Spider-Man 2 (the re-boot). The visuals are pretty incredible. Hopefully the story is better than the first one.

Spidey returns to screens May 2, 2014.


And for the grand finale, Warner Bros has FINALLY released a trailer after the one that was leaked, then pulled offline a few months back, for the Big G himself: GODZILLA!

Gozilla is set to stomp theaters May 16, 2014.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday Star Control: Otus Art!

So maybe you guys knew this, but I just learned that Erol "World's Awesomest Original D&D Artist" Otus himself did the illustrations for Star Control I and II game manuals. 

This one's titled "Removing VUX Limpets After A Battle". It's one of many wonderful pieces he did for the series and among several great surprises I found in the books!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Video and Renderings of Antarctica Sans Ice

All right GMs, here's a map of the best available rendering of Antartica, sans ice sheet. You can thank the British Antarctica Survey and NASA for these wonderful videos and images. Click pics below to enlarge.

Oblique rendering by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Top view/enhanced color imaging maps by BAS

So you no longer have an excuse not to run that Marvel Savage Land or ruined-Earth-of-the-distant-future campaign you've been secretly working on.

Yeah, that one.

Via Wired.

Monday, December 2, 2013


YOU GUYS! Remember when I told you about Black Science, Rick Remender's new weird science-horror comic? Well I picked up the first issue last week and it's awesome! It has everything you could want in a scifi pulp adventure. Here's a few quick snaps from my phone (sorry if the quality isn't great when enlarged):

Primitive fish folk riding land eels!

Ancient temples spewing eldritch energies!

Frog gods and the evil bullywugs who worship them!

Who hasn't mistakenly stumbled into a bullywug shaman lair and made a few new friends, am I right?

These are some of the wonderful splash pages from the book. The cover art by Matteo Scalera and Dean White is--to my eyes--evocative of those old pulp fantasy novels from the 70s. And there's more here to help fuel your RPG game:

  • Cosmic Cthuluesque horror!
  • Tragic consequences for practicing forbidden science!
  • Hero loses initiative roll at least twice!
  • Creative problem solving to get out of--not one, but two--jams!
  • Dimension hopping gone awry not once, but twice!

Note: Black Science is rated "Mature".

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Saturday Star Control: Mail Call!

Okay, so technically it's Sunday, but it's been a busy week with the holiday and all--so just a quick post for this week's Saturday Star Control. I was able to snag the box and manual to Star Control I and II a few weeks back on eBay. Turns out that there's a trove of info in the guides that I'd totally forgotten about the game, not to mention a lot of cool art!

Probably the coolest find though is this giant star map, complete with coordinates and spheres-of-influence under the different empires!

Hoping to find a way to scan that bad boy at some point. Anyway, light on actual post material, but a helpful resource for future ones--fleshing out different races for X-plorers. ;)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Star Control: Map of the Galaxy!

Here, have a massive star map depicting the explored universe in Star Control II! Makes for handy game aid for your favorite space opera RPG, I'd imagine.

Click to embiggen.

Image via Star-Control.com

Friday, November 22, 2013

FROM THE ZONES 4 of 4: Galactic Outfitters reverse-engineered alien tech

Click image to learn how to participate! 
Preamble, taken from the FROM THE ZONES kick-off post at FATE SF:
A black market for recovered artifacts began to grow in the towns outside the Zones. Various governments, corporations, and wealthy individuals put together their own covert shopping lists

Looking to upgrade your planetary excursion gear? 

The Amalgamated Conglomerate Mercantile Exchange company is proud to partner with these fine manufacturers who have ingeniously reverse-engineered alien technology found in The ZONES. Order now and we'll throw in a free static window cling so you can show off your "FOUND IN THE ZONES" pride!

Xenothalent™ Artificial Biologic Immuno Response Engine from Blommkampe Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

These cute little nanobot buggers are what
make Xenothelent possible. Ah, the
 miracle of technology!
Heading into a warzone filled with xeno-derived toxins and environmental biohazards? Consider getting a booster of Xenothalent™, the most adaptive artificial immune system on the market today!

You need only stick yourself with the handy, 30 centimeter needle directly into your abdomen to administer your booster shot. In mere seconds you'll be up-and-at-em, ready to take on any biohazardous environment with nary a symptom (see below for possible side effects).

Health Benefits of Xenothalent™

  • Immune to alien pathogens for up to 1 year
  • Melanin in skin turns blue when pathogens are present in atmosphere, color shade corresponds to parts-per-million in the air
  • Blood brain barrier develops resistance to mental attacks, reducing any damage by half
  • Increased healing factor (2 Hit Points per round)

Specimen shown at 3 meters in diameter!
WARNING: Early research findings indicate that due to the experimental nature of Xenothalent™  the following conditions (1d12) may occur 4 rounds after inoculation:
  • 1) Xenothalent™ breaks down into poisonous byproduct (Save Vs. Poison)
  • 2) Host experiences mutagenic transformation into biologic anomaly, taking on properties based on whatever hazard was encountered
  • 3) Inoculated individual's own immune system is sent into overdrive, Physique/Strength increases by 2d6+1 points and begins to run down to normal at -1 point per round afterward*
  • 4) Antibodies mutate and burst out of host and grow to 1d4+1 meters in diameter, bent on eradicating "intruders"
  • 5-11) Immune system works as intended, fighting off any diseases, pathogens, environmental biohazards during session (see Health Benefits above)
  • 12) Booster fails completely, no benefit gained, no side effects

*One in 100 individuals (roll 00 on percentile dice) who are inoculated with Xenothalent™ system that encounter "overdrive side effects" are left with permanent Physique/Strength attribute changes, however Intelligence drops by 4 points.

Retail price: 3,000cr, system in packs of 12 syringes
Discount price: 500cr, comes in 12 syringe pack, some may have been opened/tampered with

Note: Written for X-plorers ruleset, but easily convertible to other games.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Teaching kids RPGs, sounds a lot like the OSR way of play

Image copyright: Hero Kids RPG by Justin Halliday
Just saw this article by Ryan Carlson on GeekDad about teaching his 5 and 6-year-old girls to play Hero Kids, an RPG for little folk. There's some talk about crunch up front, but then there's this bit:
It was great fun; they always got rewarded for coming up with creative ways to problem solve throughout the game. In fact, I wish my regular RPG players would think outside of the box as much as my kids did that afternoon (I’d reward them just as well).

So my advice for parents wanting to run role-playing games for their kids is to keep an open mind and use the game for a teachable moments, not to teach combat tactics. I use the game to help reinforce simple math, teamwork, and problem solving.
Two take-aways here. The first being the creative play aspect and focusing on solutions to problems rather than combat (or at least, rather than solely relying on combat-based solutions). That seems like the old-school DnD way of thinking your way out of a mess (which I appreciate).

That's not to say that solutions can't be action-based. Indy wasn't packing dynamite when he entered that Mayan temple to steal the gold idol. He used his bullwhip and his own two feet! Or Luke shooting the control panel for the blast doors in Star Wars.

The other noteworthy point, is in rewarding players for thinking that way in the first place. Yeah, you can hack monsters and take their stuff, but what if you actually conned Smaug out of his horde--keeping the spoils! That's definitely worth a good-sized reward in experience points.

Anyway, it's nothing new to the OSR crowd, but still good advice to remember while I'm thinking on teaching RPGs to my kid one day. And if anything, it's nice to see that philosphy of play carried on outside what we think of the old school blog-o-verse.

FROM THE ZONES 3 of 4: Galactic Outfitters reverse-engineered alien tech

Click image to learn how to participate! 
Preamble, taken from the FROM THE ZONES kick-off post at FATE SF:
A black market for recovered artifacts began to grow in the towns outside the Zones. Various governments, corporations, and wealthy individuals put together their own covert shopping lists

Looking to upgrade your planetary excursion gear? 

The Amalgamated Conglomerate Mercantile Exchange company is proud to partner with these fine manufacturers who have ingeniously reverse-engineered alien technology found in The ZONES. Order now and we'll throw in a free static window cling so you can show off your "FOUND IN THE ZONES" pride!

Parry Shield™ Adaptive Deflection Screen Generator™ from Gurney Space Defense Conglomerated

Alien tech recovered: Personal-sized solid-energy emitter recovered after firefight with extraterrestrials.

Engineered into: Pretty much the same thing but with a lot more power added. Green Lantern's energy ring or a Holtzman field generator refitted for your vehicle or spacecraft.

Are you constantly getting flanked by your enemies in space combat? Tired of catching laserfire on your back quarter during dogfights? Oh, the pedantry of having to "come about" to face your foes
Throw those manual deflector screen controllers away!
during ship-to-ship combat--just because your shields happen to be stronger at the bow than the aft!

Now you can modulate your shields AUTOMATICALLY without the need to allocate power from other shipboard systems. Gurney Space Defense's latest offering, the ADSG Parry Shield™, manifests a solid wall of energy between you and harms' way that deflects all matter and energy-based attacks! Where does it go? Who cares, as long as it's not rending your ship into atomic dust!

Powered by that miracle product DynaQuark™, the generator both powers and computes the neccessary defensive placement and power output to protect your vessel.

WARNING: Should two objects with active Parry Shield fields come in contact they will both be instantaneously vaporized.

Two test subjects fist bump moments before being vaporized during trials for a personal-sized version of Parry Shield™.
WARNING: Under the Space Consumer Act of 2360, we are legally obligated to inform you of the following potential mishaps that may occur during operation of your Parry Shield™ module (1d20 for every round shield is active):
  • 1) Upon activation, shield completely sheers away hull plating, leaving starship totally transparent as a cutaway diagram, with only the Parry Shield left in place to protect against losing atmosphere/outside threats
  • 2) Shield doesn't turn on, but instead, power plant begins meltdown cycle with complete overload occurring in (1d8+1) rounds
  • 3-17) Parry Shield operation is perfectly normal, deflecting 1d10+10% of any enemy fire.
  • 18) Parry Shield works only in opposite mode, parrying at the exact wrong time--shield is up when you fire from your ship, deflecting damage back at you--and shield is down when enemy fires upon you
  • 19) Shield frequency out of phase, vibrations cause unbearable "warble" sound; will cause hearing loss of all passengers for rest of the session if not powered off in 1d4+1 rounds. Note: If #2 (above) has already been rolled, Parry Shield cannot be turned off
  • 20) When ship lands, Parry Shield cannot be turned off for 1d6 rounds, trapping crew inside
Retail price + installation: 15,000cr, system comes plug-n-power-up ready, includes six pack of DynaQuark
Discount price: 11,500cr, system comes unassembled and requires someone with expertise in starship repair, level 6 or higher and 2 weeks in drydock

Note: Written for X-plorers ruleset, but easily convertible to other games.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

FROM THE ZONES 2 of 4: Galactic Outfitters reverse-engineered alien tech

Click image to learn how to participate! 
Preamble, taken from the FROM THE ZONES kick-off post at FATE SF:
A black market for recovered artifacts began to grow in the towns outside the Zones. Various governments, corporations, and wealthy individuals put together their own covert shopping lists

Looking to upgrade your planetary excursion gear? 

The Amalgamated Conglomerate Mercantile Exchange company is proud to partner with these fine manufacturers who have ingeniously reverse-engineered alien technology found in The ZONES. Order now and we'll throw in a free static window cling so you can show off your "FOUND IN THE ZONES" pride!

Voice-activated Auto-Ration Delivery System, a.k.a. PHLORP™

Alien tech recovered: Nanite-based, bio-gel printing device. Recovered inside extraterrestrial craft medical laboratory and/or mess hall.

Engineered into: Mostly accurate, all-purpose, industrial-grade nutritional system.

So you've woken up from cryo-sleep and slipped on your own biofluids--what's the first thing you look for? Breakfast! Insert credits, speak your portion size, (e.g., "one bowl" or "two cups") and The GLORP spurts out a glob of nano-organic sludge onto your serving tray. It appears as grey-blue, grey-green, or pink (Roll 1d6: 6 = it's full-on red in color. You should ask for a refund and discontinue use immediately).
PHLORP™ prior to being loaded into auto-ration printer
Named for the sound the sludge makes when it hits your plate, just speak aloud your desired dish and your food will blossom into it's nearest grade-school equivalent right before your very eyes!
  • Asked for sirloin? Salisbury steak it is! 
  • Make-your-own-pizza? How about garlic cheese bread with a side of ketchup! 
  • Dreamed up a banana split? Banana pudding with chocolate swirls--MMMMmmm! (We think it's chocolate....).

Don't be afraid though, PHLORP is a highly efficient and stable platform for nutritional and disbursement and absorption. Once extruded, the nanoparticles detect what nutrients you need for the day as soon as it hits your lips and synthesizes the appropriate proteins, vitamins, and minerals with the necessary fiber-to-grinder ratio to keep things moving. Just don't count on your dish to wow the senses.

This is Steven. He heard what you said. He wants you to apologize immediately.
WARNING: Occassionaly, PHLORP outputs a substance that refuses to auto-morph into any nutritional substance (1d12) but will instead artifically reconstitute into what could be classified as a "lifeform". In such cases, if consumer should (Result know only to GM):
  • 1) Back away slowly, never turning back on PHLORP (Fireball, 2d6 damage, 10 meter diameter)
  • 2) Try to talk your way out of situation, maybe pay it a compliment (If successfull, becomes consumer's familiar, but reeks to high heaven of rotten fish)
  • 3) Stab with utensil (Utensil is imbued with indesctructible coating for 2d6 rounds, will not harm PHLORP; also, PHLORP angered)
  • 4) Put in microwave for fired upon with energy weapons (PHLORP will grow in size 3d10 meters, absorbs/consumes all in it's path, seems upset when mocked)
  • 5) Fired upon with convential weapons (PHLORP appreciates your attempt at humor, becomes caustic sludge [2d6+1 damage] that moves at 2d4 spaces per round)
  • 6) Attacked with sonic weapon (PHLORP shatters into 4d8 pieces, becomes less friendly)
  • 7) Targeted by psionics (PHLORP communicates on 5-year-old level, throws tantrum, re-roll 1d6 above results)
  • 8) Yell at it (re-roll 1-6 on 1d6, modify result by +1dX; i.e., if you rolled fireball, it's now 3d6+2 damage)
  • 9-12) PHLORP does not mutate, is perfectly edible, add 1d4+1 to your Hit Points for the rest of the session (not a permanent bonus)
WARNING: Some mutation may occur. Consult your mission physician in case of spontaneous genetic malformation. Side effects include, but are not limited to (1d6): monstrous devolution, rabid zombification, radioactive lycanthropy, instantanous appearance of vestigial limbs, and scabies.

Retail price + installation: 1,500cr
Discount price: 990cr minus spice rack replicator, food smells like week-old refried beans

Note: Written for X-plorers ruleset, but easily convertible to other games.