Last Week’s Gaming – August 31, 2020 – Board game arena is great

Where did all my time go? Apparently into playing a heap of different games this week!

This week, we had a significant release at work. We are frantically trying to get a couple of other features implemented as quickly as possible, and trying to fix a bunch of stuff for other people.

Even Harry has had a lousy time this week. Poor little fella broke his dew claw, but after a trip to the vet, he is a very happy chappy again.

He wasn't running everywhere straight away, but look how happy he is now his claw is fixed

But even with all that, I got a couple of nights of mindless video games. And I got to catch up with some friends from Melbourne I thought I wouldn’t see this year with no PAX Aus and all! Online catchup, obviously, but it was great to catch up and spend an evening playing a few games.

How did we do it this time? That’s easy. We used…

Ok, so this is more thoughts on a service rather than a game. Board Game Arena lets you play lots of different board games for free (with ads) or for a small monthly fee.

I am not going to go too far into how it works, but it does work. And reasonably well. Once you are in the game, there are quirks you need to learn, but on the whole, it works well.

While the ability to make game matches seems to be overly complicated, the gameplay itself is much easier to learn on the fly. As I was playing with only friends on voice chat, a couple of small questions we had were quickly answered. Those that couldn’t be answered from experience almost always ended up working as you would have thought.

I might see if I can talk Alpal into playing a few games this way with me during the week. I couldn’t catch up with her because of work and other commitments this weekend, but this might be a mid-week alternative.

Sushi Go – Board Game Arena

When someone suggested we play Sushi Go, I mentally froze. I remember enjoying Sushi Go, and Sushi Go Party, but I forgot everything about actually playing them.

Yay for genre standards! At its heart, Sushi Go is just a fun set collection game. I made a couple of silly mistakes early on, but I was never at a severe disadvantage.

Bottom line, a couple of rounds of Sushi Go was a great choice. We got to chat without being distracted by complicated gameplay, and have a fun silly and quick fun time.

Get a choice of cards at the top, and pick one for your table. Easy to pay, hard to score well!

Saboteur – Board Game Arena

Saboteur is a game I have owned for a long time. I even have the second game and keep them combined in a large box. I have taught many games, overseen many games, but I have only played it myself once or twice. On top of that, it’s been a good 4-5 years since I even thought about Saboteur.

Well, until now.

The idea is pretty simple. All of the players are dwarven miners, and you are tunnelling trying to find gold. On your turn, you play a tunnel card, and you complete a clear path to one of three locations trying to find gold.

All you have to do is reach the end cards and find gold. That's it. No one would betray you...

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Well, there are Saboteur’s in your party, and they will try and stop you from collecting the gold. They can tunnel the wrong way, break equipment, lie about peeking at goals, anything to make the party run out of cards.

Once this happens, the Saboteur’s win. After three rounds of this, players with the highest score win. I was the Saboteur twice, and I helped the party more than I hindered them. Oops :p

Names have been removed to protect the cheaters... I mean innocent better players :p

Tokaido – Board Game Arena

I have spoken about Tokaido a few times, and last week I was actually playing with the people that coined the name of ‘The Hangover Game’. If you want to more about the game itself, check out my review.

Playing Tokaido is always a relaxing time for me, and this was no exception. I will say I much prefer the presentation of the stand-alone app, which also gives me the ability to play solo. But if I am playing multiplayer, I will play with friends on Board Game Arena anytime.

The graphics are more basic and the help text not quite as refined on Board Game Arena. The ability to play without everyone buying a copy of the app more than makes up for these superficial shortcomings.

It is nice to see all of the player cards al laid out compared to the dedicated app

Colt Express – Board Game Arena

I have missed playing Colt Express. You need to play this in large groups, and even without the current isolation, that can be hard to achieve.

Colt Express has players as bandits robbing a train. Actions happen with cards, but instead acting on your turn, you program your moves to act them out later.

This delayed programming can make things so challenging and fun. While you think you can move, shoot and then pick up loot is a simple sequence, it can be much more challenging. 

Which way should I go...

For example, you move, and another player punches. They may have thought they were hitting another player, but you are now a potential target. You get punched, and you get moved to somewhere else and drop some loot. Ouch!

It’s not all bad. You might have thought to shoot another player, but now you are in the wrong spot. But now you can shoot the player that punched you first, just saying.

While there is a digital app for Colt Express, I really don’t like it. Colt Express is an example of a Digital Board Game that changes the rules way too much in the digital implementation.

I will let the rest of them fight it out. I have a lot of money bags - should be good for second place 🙂

Onirim – Android

Jumping back into another game I haven’t picked up in a while, I decided to give Onirim a whirl during a bit of downtime.

I am not going to talk about Onirim too much here. It’s a great game, and the digital implementation makes quick solo play a breeze.

If you would like to know more about my thoughts on Onirim, check out my review. Short version – there are good reasons why Onirim regularly cycles back in my list of played games.

I don't play scored mode often, I was surprised I had a score this good.

Smash Up – Steam

Smash Up is a game that reminds me of Munchkin. The premise of this ‘simple’ deck builder sounds fine. Pick two teams with their own deck of cards, shuffle them together, and go for it.

The execution is a lot more involved. Some rules completely contradict each other, and timing takes a long time to get the hang of. Actually learning to play Smash Up takes a lot of time. This alone makes the game not for everyone.

The layout of the game makes for a clean simple affair

I have had Smash Up on Steam for ages, and with an extended bit of downtime decided to finally give it a go. It’s been at least 5 years since I had a round of Smash Up, and I thought it would be a simple case of readjusting.

I was wrong. To be fair, Smash Up is a complex game that is a rules lawyer’s dream. Or their worst nightmare. The digital implementation seems to do a pretty good job of letting me play, but getting what I want to do to happen isn’t intuitive.

Somehow this is about the third turn in? Smash Up changes quickly

I might try it again next week in a focused play session, but I think I just found out why I haven’t played it for so long.

Fall Guys – PS4

What a sensation Fall Guys has turned out to be! Last Monday while you guys were seeing what I was playing the previous week, I chilled for a little while with this insane competition game.

I jumped back in for a little bit with spookedshibe again, but neither of us did well. It was still a heap of fun playing, and that is always what counts.

The medieval theme for season 2 looks interesting, and that is only a few weeks away. Fall Guys just doesn’t seem to be slowing down!

Close enough to see the goal, far enough to know that only a miracle can help me.

Battletoads – Xbox One (Game Pass)

The poster child for hard beat ’em ups in the early 90s, Battletoads was a game I know a lot about but never actually played. Turning on the Xbox to watch some movies, I saw the notification pop up that the remake was available on Game Pass. So as I had access, I thought why not give it a go?

Fixing a computer with a raised fist. We have all been there but...

Right now, my thought is honestly “Why did I give this a go”. It’s not terrible, but the remake shows that the Battletoads are a product of their time.

Combat wise, battles are satisfying, and the different characters have very different playstyles. Enemies have different attack styles, and learning the patterns and various combat techniques are satisfying.

Level design is… Unique. There are plenty of genres mixed in to break up the straight beat ’em up style play. These have you do quick-time events, platforming, and the (in)famous hoverbikes are present.

The hoverbikes are just as infuriating, but this time at least come with checkpoints

There was also a weird glitch during an early boss battle where the boss just got ‘stuck’ in the top left corner. I couldn’t touch him, and if I went close to him, I just got hit. The checkpoint system made this easy to work around – quick restart from the checkpoint, and I was back. But a bug like this less than 10 minutes in? Not a great start.

Then there are the cutscenes. You are thrown right into the fray with an over the top introduction that brings you up to speed pretty well. But the forced jokes and over the top nature has me dreading the next break rather than looking forward to it.

I beat up minions for about 10 minutes before I decided the bugs I was eating wasn't the only one

I don’t think I will be going back to Battletoads. I might, but not quickly. Instead, I was reminded that I have Streets of Rage 4 on the Xbox as well. I think I will be going back to that well before Battletoads. Even Penny Arcade had a comment on the quality of the writing.

Speaking of Streets of Rage 4…

Streets of Rage 4 – Xbox (Game Pass)

I thought I would play a ‘good’ beat ’em up after Battletoads, and my memories of Streets of Rage 4 were fond ones. Unfortunately, enjoying the gameplay is all that I remembered. It wasn’t long before I was looking at the help files for how to perform different moves.

I played my way through most of the fifth stage, only to get owned by the boss. Twice. I gave up not in frustration, but in recognition that I was too tired to be playing.

I worked out the Stage 5 boss won't summon help if you don't break any bikes. Unfortunately, he breaks bikes all the time.

So, save slot two has been started. When in doubt, start again – especially in a game like this. It’s not like I had been playing for weeks and had to throw it away. Beat ’em ups are distractions more than anything else after all.

I did consider jumping into arcade mode after clearing the first few levels. Unfortunately, I discovered I need to finish the story mode before anything else unlocks. While not the end of the world, it did diminish my will to make Streets of Rage 4 my next ‘finished’ game. We will see how that one goes.

I did manage to unlock a retro inspired level. That was a lot of fun!

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming August 24th, 2020 Escape The Clank Rage Fall

Why did I only take one week off? I still got some great gaming in last week though.

I have found when you come back from holidays you can see a pattern. Day one, you spend half the day filtering through emails, then answering emails and meeting requests for the rest of the day.

Day two, you start to get stuck into work fresh. Day three, the ‘Now you are back’ jobs start stacking up.

So while the number of games I played dropped this week, I had a great time playing the games I did get to play. But what did I play? Well, let’s not wait here to find out!

Another game in, another loss. After playing a couple of times now, I am 98% confident that I am playing ‘correctly’ now. My biggest issue is at the moment, the FAQ on the Themeborne site still doesn’t exist.

But, Escape the Dark Sector is fun. Alpal and I had a great time trudging through an adventure, and playing with someone definitely makes a difference.

It's early on in the game, so why not fight and get some items?

Shuffling some cards, picking some dice, and getting straight into a game is great. And the new system means the chances of pulling the same cards over and over in the base game are next to none.

Even playing ‘properly’ though, it’s still a really hard game. We did at least make it to the boss. I even managed to convince Alpal that sneaking around an enemy was better than rolling dice! It was a one-off, but the chances of bad things happening in Escape the Dark games when rolling dice are really high.

It was my character that got very smashed. In other news, I will be talking about how to make these reusable in the future.

I got Clank in Space (no, I won’t always use the !) when it first came out in 2017. I never played the original, mainly because of some cheap tactics that didn’t make the game sound fun. Think Deep Sea Adventures type flaws.

Clank in Space fixes a lot of these problems, but I only just played my first game this week with Alpal. And I will be playing it more soon. I had a lot of fun playing, but there was one catch. After one round of Escape the Dark Sector, Clank in Space starting to drag for me at the end of the game. I need to play more to come up with some firmer opinions on the game.

You will probably be hearing about Clank in Space sooner than you think… Keep an eye on the site for more news!

It was a race of techniques. I could move, but not buy much in the way of help. Alpal could buy anything, but would move slowly.

Blood Rage Digital – Steam

So Blood Rage Digital has gotten some new updates. Still no ultrawide screen support, but there have been some other changes.

One that has actually annoyed me a bit is there is now essentially a ‘Are you sure?’ option when playing a card in battle or pillaging. This can be turned off, but it threw the flow of the game for me until I worked this out.

The more exciting tweak to me is the AI difficulty seems to have been worked on. I didn’t see it in the update notes, but I have gone from virtually walking over ‘normal’ AI to having to work for every point.

It's been a long time since I came fourth. You could almost guarantee 2nd place with 75+ points before the new udpate.

I am still enjoying the occasional bought of Blood Rage, and I hope that Asmodee Digital continues bringing good adaptions of such games. Developers Exozet is definitely doing their best, and if we look at Blood Rage Digital as a prototype that is being refined, I think there will be many great conversions to come.

Fall Guys – PS4

To say Fall Guys has had a massive amount of coverage lately would be an understatement. As Devolver Digital and Sony have included Fall Guys in PlayStation Plus this month, I thought I would have a look.

What I found surprised me. The premise is simple – you play through five rounds per ‘episode’ and try to be the last contestant in the game. It’s Takeshi’s Castle without those annoying real-world physics.

Fall Guys is like going shopping these days. The activities are fine, if it wasn't for all the other people!

I am finding 3-4 episodes my limit in a play session, but even if you make it through all five rounds, the longest episode didn’t even last 10 minutes. The quick gameplay makes Fall Guys a great distraction or ‘filler’ game. Especially for free!

Saturday night I even got to team with spookedshibe and have a great chat while playing. Both of us would just chat away as we haven’t caught up for a while, and if one of us got eliminated, we would still have fun watching along.

Why is this person holding me back? Who knows! Some players will just play to stop others from finishing. Don't be them.

If you have PlayStation Plus, grab Fall Guys today and give it a play. It looks like there will be 60ish day seasons, so new events should be coming over and over again.

Word of warning though – if you want the Platinum trophy, there will be a lot of luck involved. Get Fall Guys for some fun with friends, not as an easy trophy haul.

Beat Saber – Oculus Quest

So for the last few months, walking 1000 steps in a day was a ‘big’ workout. I am not alone with this being the case. I have a few physical issues which have been plaguing me, and my lack of movement is making them worse.

So, with the house finally pretty much finalised, Beat Saber has come back into my daily routine. Well, that’s the plan. I have only started on Saturday, but I hope to keep at it!

Beat Saber is as good now as the day I first played it. Check out my review if you haven’t heard me gush about this VR game before, and/or this Spotify link if you want to hear the music.

The Quest lets you record your gameplay, but the quality isn't as good as what you see in the headset

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Site Updates and Upcoming 2020 Plans

Now that I have had a break, I have a clear head to think about things. Update plans are pretty much in place for the rest of 2020.

Hi everyone. 🙂

My break last week allowed me to recharge. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I was so drained it took me far too long to recognise how drained I indeed was. The good news is now I realise I still need a much bigger break, and I already have another holiday booked in for late November. Countdown to the relaxing!

Right now, I am kicking back on the couch with my laptop. If I tried to do this two weeks ago, I would have been trying to get in some more work before starting to write this. By consciously putting down everything for a week, I have had an opportunity to sit back and look at both work and personal from a fresh perspective.

Enzo is not impressed I am paying more attention to the laptop than him

So what does this mean for the site?

One thing I started doing incrementally was trying to make JohnHQLD.com more like a gaming business site, minus the business. I wanted to crank out reviews and do gaming news. While not a bad idea, the bottom line is JohnHQLD.com is a hobby site for me.

There are already many people in a much better position than me to do this kind of thing properly. Even people whose opinion I differ with a lot are in a much better place to give you more up to date information than I am. Not just in terms of time – being a reviewer is a full-time job, and these people/organisations have better contacts and relationships for gaming than I do.

But gaming is a passion for me. My approach for gaming is similar to my approach to people. A gamer is someone that enjoys playing games. That’s it. Some people focus on board games, RPGs, wargaming or video games. Sites that concentrate on more than one of these groups tend to have people that work with them to cover so much.

What does that mean?

From now, I am just going to concentrate on documenting my gaming experiences and talking about the bits and pieces that interest me. Last Week’s Gaming on Mondays will remain. It’s an excellent way for me to summarise what I have been playing and giving my quick thoughts on many different games.

So articles on the site will take a very personal ‘blog’ slant. There won’t be set days for content, and no timelines imposed on me. Just what I have time to write.

So you are down to one summary article a week?

Nope. I will do reviews, but I am no longer going to try and turn out one a week. There might be a spate of reviews initially as I start writing them, but it really will be just as I get time to do them justice. There have been a few reviews I have tried to get out that are definitely worse than others, and I want to take my time and get out reviews that I think do the games justice.

Crowdfunding articles will be coming back when I see projects that grab my interest. I have tried to never take the ‘easy’ path of just writing about this weeks hotness – there are way too many ways to see what is popular already. So, like my ‘Lost in Straya‘ piece, I will write about lesser publicised projects that I think fit for individual circumstances.

So, you will hardly be spending time on the site at all.

It might look like that, but in the background not at all. I will go more into what I will be spending a lot of extra time on away from public eyes below. I also have a couple of plans to stay in touch and talk to you all even more.

One of these ways involves streaming. I haven’t fully worked out how I will be doing this, but the plan at the moment is to stream a couple of times a week.

Streaming? Do you mean Twitch?

I haven’t fully worked out how I am going to do it, but I will likely be streaming on Twitch or YouTube. During this week, I have set up sound dampening panels in my office to help with sound recording.

Streaming PC/Console content I already have mostly worked out, but it’s not only video games I want to stream. I just need to work out how to set up another camera to record an area next to my desk.

There will be some video games, but I want to do lots of other things

Why do you need another camera? I thought streaming was for video games?

It can be. It’s certainly the stereotype. But even before Covid-19, there was already a lot of fantastic creative content being streamed. One of my favourite background streamers plays the piano on screen. Lots of groups have begun to stream RPG sessions. There are lots of different things that can be streamed.

So sometimes, I will stream video games. Other times, I want to stream board games. These will be solo endeavours, but it should be good to play along with me or join in on decisions I am having trouble making.

I also want to stream some new content I have in mind.

What new content?

This is the only ‘teaser’ section I have for today. Basically, I want to do a bunch of different things. For example, finding time to paint my minis. I think it would fun if I could set up a couple of minis to paint and chat with everyone while I attempt to paint some minis.

More on this kind of content will be coming up soon, but I think this kind of approach will let me have downtime while keeping in touch with everyone.

OK, you have done the teaser thing. What else are you working on in the background?

So, the site itself. Not content, the actual site to get it to you. On the desktop, I am pretty happy with how everything is working. On mobile, not so much.

I have tweaked WordPress well past my initial knowledge over the years. With a few of the significant changes in the web and WordPress itself, I have a lot of bits and pieces that keep breaking. Sometimes you can see these problems, mostly not. But I am spending on average a couple of hours a month nursing the site along, and I would rather not be spending my time doing this.

I really want the mobile experience to be much bettter than it is

So, a new site is coming. I just haven’t fully decided how. You wouldn’t see anything different (except for better load times), with a focus on much better mobile performance.

But you already have a website – what do you mean by a new site?

I could spend my time writing a ‘static’ website – just straight HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This would be easy for me to control, and much cheaper for me to run. I would lose timed publishing and a couple of other things though.

There is also the option of just making a new WordPress site from scratch. This would make my life easier in terms of not nursing old code and plugin maintenance, but it means I would probably have to repeat this process in a couple of years.

I could also go in a completely different way. The number of technologies that I work with and am more comfortable with definitely offer choices.

The bottom line though is no matter which way I go, I need to bring across four years of content. I also need to completely rework how my images have been done over the years. No matter which way I go, there is going to be a considerable amount of work involved.

So when I am not working or playing, time spent writing reviews and articles will be spent in this kind of tech work. I will probably be making two or three sites concurrently and testing them all to see which way I decide to go.

Hence, things like streaming will let me have downtime and talk to everyone without spending any extra time preparing content or editing videos. I am hoping this will be a win/win solution until the new site is up.

But what about all of your other plans?

I still want to do everything I talked about earlier this year. The program to grab and collate game collections for Board Game Geek users kind of works for people with small collections, but I am shelving things like this until next year. Or if I just want something else to work on.

My gaming challenges are mostly on track, except for the number of new games I wanted to play this year. Oh, and getting a couple of games to the table.

These things are all examples of self-imposed timelines. If I miss a gaming goal or shelve a couple of projects until 2021, it’s not going to hurt. Ultimately, I am hoping that by focusing on the site tech now and starting a couple of new ways of interacting with everyone, JohnHQLD.com will actually come out stronger. And I stay sane.

So what do you think? Is this something you would be interested in joining me in? Let me know in the comments, comment on Facebook or shout out on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

PAX Aus/PAX West 2020 Merch and Shelfie Stacker!

I love PAX. #SorryNotSorry.

Last week, I talked about the upcoming PAX Online. My love of PAX is not something I have ever tried to hide.

There are a bunch of new games coming out that I wish I had time to look into this week. One week to go for weird work weeks!

But this morning the official PAX merch was made available for pre-order. No waiting in line, no queues, and even better – free standard shipping!

Do you need any of this to enjoy PAX? Nope. But it’s still something great, and Rabbit and I may have spent a fair bit today! :p

So no whole in my PAX Bag for 2020 after all! My previous PAX hoodie was starting to get a bit worn, so I thought I would jump in and grab a new one this year.

Instead I grabbed the PAX Varsity jacket. Sure, it will arrive just in time for an Australian summer, but hey – I will be ready for next winter!

Accipitus Domum - roughly translated, "Another Home".
This style of bag has really grown on me. Huge number of uses, and more comfortable than you think

Another item that I have taken to is the drawstring or ‘cinch’ bags. These things are tough, hold heaps of stuff and are comfortable to wear. When I go on flights (not so much at the moment), now I have one or two of these in my backpack.

Why? I put my Switch and Kindle in one, and things I want to carry around with me in another. They fold up into almost nothing, but let me stow my backpack but quickly have everything for when I am in my seat.

And usually, they are great for stashing items as I walk around the PAX floor!

Am I saying you should go and buy everything in the store? No. Well, Rabbit and I kind of did, but that’s a different story. 😀

But just like PAX Online, now everybody has a chance to grab a piece of PAX for themselves without having to travel. And I find this really exciting.

Are you going to talk about games again soon?

Yes. Last week, I was going to talk about a new Kickstarter called Shelfie Stacker. Today, I will still talk about it, just in a shortened form.

Shelfie Stacker’s theme is what has attracted me to it. Organising my games collection has been on my to do list for almost 2 years. It hasn’t happened yet.

Why is this important? Because in Shelfie Stacker, that’s exactly what you are doing! Each turn, you draft a ‘delivery’ of games (dice selection) and you need to build up your game shelves.

There are rules, so early planning is rewarded. For example, you cannot put a die with one large game on top of a set of 3 medium sized games. You also can’t put different coloured dice in the same column.

I can't believe it took this long for a game like this to come about

Each round, you select a helper (card) that allows you to utilise their special power. This will let you manipulate the die to change the value, and break rules like being able to stack the ‘wrong’ colour.

You get to choose your 8 helpers from a deck of 10 choices, so again strategy comes into play. Then, it’s up to you to use the best helper at the right time.

This sounds like a potentially deep and heavy game, but Shelfie Stacker looks incredibly light in terms of game weight. This means that experienced gamers and new players have an equal chance of winning, and everyone should have enough ‘game’ to enjoy themselves.

Build the best pattern you can. It's not a new concept, but what a theme!

Are you backing it?

I am indeed. Even with the dependence on colour, I can clearly differentiate between the different coloured dice with my colour blindness. And all of the colours used are displayed on the box, so it’s an easy ‘litmus test’ for similar players to tell if they can play.

It’s also only AUD$56. For the amount of die you get in the game, coupled with some clever components and design, this is a great price I think.

Also, it’s a game designed in New Zealand. It’s nice to see more games coming from this side of the world!

So what do you think? Does Shelfie Stacker tickle your interest? Check out the Kickstarter page for more information!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – June 22nd, 2020

So I knuckled down as much as I could, and I did get some gaming in last week.

Two more weeks is my mantra at the moment. When this goes live, I will be finishing up last week’s work. Tomorrow is going to be putting out IT spot fires.

But that is what is coming. Today is about concentrating on what I played last week. And I had more fun than I expected, hard draining week and all!

One Deck Dungeon – Steam

It has been a few weeks since I played One Deck Dungeon. This fantastic dice chucker is as fun as ever, and everything I talked about in my review still stands.

I jumped back on because I could cheat a little while I was working. I had a few tasks that were periods of focused work, followed by waiting times. What better way to fill in these times than playing a turn-based game?

I lost SO many dice because of this enemy

My Rogue has been completely upgraded, and that little Steam achievement popped. So of course, my brain went into “Oooh. Completion run?” mode.

I am not going to make a concentrated effort to get all of the Steam achievements, but I think I will give it a try. At the very least, it will be fun to build up the rest of my characters!

Started the road to building up my Warrior

Blood Rage Digital – Steam

Another recent review that has been revisited. And since I have written that review, a lot of updates have come out. I still can’t play in ultrawide, but the issue has been acknowledged, and hopefully, a fix isn’t too far away.

But that was mostly in the ‘niggle’ category for me. The most significant update I appreciate – save game states for solo play. You can now close down a solo game and come back!

I have increased from 3 to 5 players for my games now am familiar with it again. I have also bumped up the difficulty. This has led to my first defeat (by 1 point!), but a couple more games have seen me winning again. Time to bump that difficulty level back up!

Forces congregating around Yggdrasil

I have had a couple of comments that my Blood Rage review was pretty negative. There were things I addressed that were an issue, and at the time I stand by them. They are being fixed quickly though, so that is something I appreciate from developers.

The biggest recommendation I can still give Blood Rage is that I am still playing it (and enjoying it!) regularly. Would I still rather be playing Blood Rage around a table with friends? Of course. But Blood Rage Digital does a great job at scratching that itch when I can’t!

It looks like I have truly lost. But I have 60 more points coming... This tension makes Blood Rage for me

Minesweeper Genius – Switch

So last week, I reviewed a little game called The Card. I obviously played it last week, as I did the review. As all of my thoughts are already in the review, I am not talking about it this week.

What I am talking about this week is another sub $2 purchase called Minesweeper Genius. I quite enjoyed minesweeper back in the earlier Windows days when it came included with the operating system, and this looked like a cute take on it. Plus, it was really, really cheap.

The goal of Minesweeper Genius isn’t just to find where all the mines are through deductive reasoning. You also have to guide your sweeper through the level to a goal.

The level select screen is functional. Not every element needs to be groundbreaking.

This took some adjustment on my part. The game is very minimal in terms of hand-holding through a tutorial. Still, the difficulty spike and adding new mechanics has been pretty good so far. I have cleared about 30 levels and unlocked the first ‘advanced’ stages area. Or I could choose to continue going forward.

I’m not going to rave about Minesweeper Genius, but I am enjoying it far more than I thought I would. The next game should stop me from doing a formal review on it this week.

The same Minesweeper deduction is required, but you apply it differently

The Outer Worlds – Switch

Yes, I made progress! Even though I have already finished this game on Xbox, I am still enjoying discovering new things I either missed or have been added. I suspect more of the former.

Over the weekend I completed Edgewater, the first planet you are let loose upon. I had fun. It was enjoyable. I did a couple of quests I don’t remember/missed in my first run, and slightly muddled another because I did it out of order.

I have only been playing in handheld mode. Have I seen frame rate dips? Yes. Does the texture popping look weird? Sometimes, usually worst when loading a save.

Making the shot that started a lot of enemies running towards me

What I haven’t experienced are mid-game ‘loading circles’ I have seen in other headlines. Nothing has happened more than a typical ‘fallout bug’ to me so far. Portability does mean sacrifices, but as for The Outer Worlds being unplayable on the Switch – so far, I haven’t seen it.

During the week I intend to finish the Groundbreaker. This is going to take some time as it’s from memory the largest quest area. It is also the area with the most random people and such that could stress the hardware.

I love the style and humour in these loading screens

So all going well, The Outer Worlds review is coming this week.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

Oh Tom Nook, you addictive racoon. My plan last week was to potter away, and I have been. Sitting down on the couch with Animal Crossing for 15-20 minutes a day has been a good way to wind down.

However, last week, I made two major mistakes. Firstly, I forgot to sell turnips during the week. Luckily on Friday, the rate jumped a little. So I made a small profit – about 20 bells per turnip.

Then on Sunday, I got a note about stuff littered around my house. I forgot I was storing turnips downstairs and upstairs! So that has set me back financially a little bit. Luckily, I have only picked an area to plant my money trees in terms of modelling Sleep Cove, and even that isn’t final. So I have time to get back to where I was 🙂

Oh Snowboy... We all know weeks like that...

One thing that did make me smile was K.K. Slider this week. I was watching some youTube videos saying that K.K. is based on Kazumi Totaka, a famous Nintendo sound designer. He has a tune that is hidden in many Nintendo offerings, and it is known as Totaka’s Song. So as I could make requests, I tried to see if K.K. would play Totaka’s Song.

And he does! You have to rename it slightly, but it’s there. Not only did I get to see K.K. Slider perform the famous easter egg, but I now have a copy registered to my music collection.

I don't know if this is still an easter egg or I hit on a song I hadn't bought yet, but it made me happy

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

So. PAX Aus 2020 online anybody?

I reserve Wednesday’s for little snippets of things I am looking forward to. And PAX Aus is the one time of year I really look forward to – even more than my birthday!

So yesterday it came to light that PAX Aus 2020 has been formally postponed until 2021. Given the state of the world and everything, it is the right call. Still sad about it, but hey – that’s the world we live in right now.

So, the PAX Aus timer has been removed from the site. That countdown will be reset when the dates for next year are announced. You may have noticed another in it’s place though…

How is that looking forward to something? This is the opposite!

I will miss driving down to Melbourne this year with Rabbit and catching up with people I only get to see once a year. PAX Aus is three days of exhausting goodness, but what a great time it is!

While there might not be a formal PAX Aus this year, there will still be things happening. There have already been new ways of joining up with the PAX community, such as the PAX Aus YouTube channel.

From the sounds of it, there will still be ways to join in with new announcements to be made. Is it the same as being there? No. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be enjoying everything! And now, even more people can participate!

If that’s not something to look forward to, I don’t know what is.

The PAX Bag of holding gets a break this year

So what is PAX Aus 2020 online?

PAX Aus 2020 Online is something I made up in my head when I got the postponement notification. Given the lack of a physical event, it makes sense that any panels or the like that can be arranged will be online events.

This morning PAX Online was officially announced! With dates from September 12th to the 20th. Yep – EIGHT DAYS OF PAX!!!!!!

Tickets are free – you ust have to be on the internet! Obviously at this early stage there isn’t anything formally announced in terms of panels, competitions, demos and the like. But it’s all there. In a new form sure, but it’s all there!

Merch will still be available as well. I know this is the shallowest part of going to PAX, but I was going to miss my PAX Aus 2020 pin this year. Now I don’t have to – the store will be open next week to preorder items.

This is going to be interesting 🙂

The main PAX draw of meeting new people is also being looked at. Things are being ironed out, but they are offering the experience online. The notice includes creating chat rooms, tournament systems and group finding – so this should be fun!

Something I have been playing with is the creation of a JohnHQLD Discord server. I set one up for my local games group, and I think I have a pretty good handle on how it all works.

Whatever PAX comes up with, this would be a way we could enjoy it together. We might even get more people that can’t make it to PAX – that would be awesome!

What do you think? Would you be interested in chatting with others while events are taking place? I have been toying with the idea for a while, and I think it could work.

The world is full of possibilities.

So while I don’t have any firm grasp of what is happening with PAX Aus 2020 at this stage, there is no reason why the spirit of PAX needs to dwindle. While I might not be able to meet new people at a gaming table, the enjoyment of PAX doesn’t have to be postponed either.

So will PAX be the same this year? No. But there will be a PAX this year! While the team had to make some hard announcements, they are doing everything they can to make PAX Online 2020 as enjoyable as possible.

So what do you think? Are you looking forward to joining in on a ‘virtual’ PAX experience? Would you like a smaller place and group to enjoy some games and panels with people from this community? I think this could be an amazing PAX and I can’t wait for more details to be finalised over the coming weeks.

And imagine how good PAX Aus 2021 will be!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – June 1st, 2020

One full week back at work, and I am back to being overly tired. I didn’t play any PS4 or Xbox this week. But I did get in some digital board gaming – let the gaming challenge counts finally rise!

OK, so it wasn’t a huge dent, but a dent is a dent. Kicking back and playing the AI isn’t as good as playing with my friends, but it was still good to do some board gaming.

Turn-based, take your time, board gaming. I needed it last week, and probably will again this week.

But enough of all that – on to what actually got played!

Istanbul – Steam

I quite enjoy Istanbul, but it can be a brain breaker. This is why I generally prefer Istanbul: The Dice Game. It’s one of those rare times where the dice game captured the feel of the ‘original’ game perfectly.

Early last week, I nabbed the Steam digital version and gave it a go. The tutorial is as good as I can ask for. One of the downsides to Istanbul is there are a few different things to keep track of, and it takes at least a couple of games for everything to click.

Going to see if I can get a game or two in on games night, and see what everyone else thinks of playing it digitally.

It's the board game, with everything laid out logically.
It is a lot easier to read what the locations do though!

Small World – Android

Well, discounts got me last week. Google Play gave me a $1 credit, and I started having a look to see if there was anything that jumped out at me. Turned out there were two titles.

The first one was an old favourite that I hadn’t played for quite some time – Small World.

I had a couple of games, and I enjoyed it. That said, I can’t recommend people that haven’t already got it run out and buy it. First and foremost, I got the ‘this was written for an older version of Android’ warning as soon as I started it up. That doesn’t bode well for staying on your phone much longer.

Playing it on mobile is a little frustrating when your finger misses a token. Everything is just so small, and my gorilla fingers had trouble moving my tokens.

It did remind me that I do have Small World on Steam though. On a bigger screen, the gameplay will be a lot smoother. And just as fun as the board game, without the micromanagement.

I will have to see if I can use Remote Play Together on it for a games night…

Three sides of this die are blank. You will swear it has 7 blank sides.
It was at this point, I thought this may have been a mistake
And this is why you never give up trying

Dragon Castle – Steam

I reviewed Dragon Castle last week, so I won’t be talking much about this one. But how could I do a review and not grab at least one screenshot of the game? Oh no, I had to play a game. Such a hard life :p

Today I will talk about how disappointed I was that Dragon Castle doesn’t work with Remote Play Together. Like Tokaido, Dragon Castle is a great game to be playing during a conversation, and I think it would work really well in the remote play format.

I think if people could jump in for a round or two on someone else’s copy, more copies would be sold. Yes, it was on sale for a very low entry point cost, but you had to want to already play to be willing to pay it.

But that’s just my rant. 🙂

I was getting worried. The compute started targeting my dragon tiles.
Lost on tie breaker though. Can't be unhappy with that comeback!

When I got an email saying that Imperial Settlers was coming to mobile, I was very excited. I have had my eye on the roll and write version for a while, and a portable solo version could bump Onirim for plays.

I bought it, loaded it up, and played the tutorial. And I have no idea what is going on.

Teaching board games is hard. Anyone that has tried can tell you that. Learning board games is harder, and some manuals do not help with this.

That is where Imperial Settlers: Roll and Write fell down for me. There is a manual you have to read that will hopefully explain enough to understand the tutorial. The tutorial itself was basically ‘pick this, move it’ with little explanation as to what you were trying to achieve.

So now I am going to sit with a few video tutorials and the rule book. This is the only way I believe I can get the full experience. I will come back to this one in a few weeks with a full review.

Why do you want crowns? Read the manual to find out!

Blood Rage – Steam

As I wrote last Wednesday, I was looking forward to this. I enjoy Blood Rage, but it’s a hard one to get to the table. Not that it’s a bad game – just one that takes a lot of coordination getting certain types of player together.

I was hoping that the digital version would help me get some plays in, and I believe it will. I have played two games against AI opponents so far, and the ‘easy’ difficulty still gives a challenge.

The biggest challenge was actually my screen. Playing in ultrawide in my first game, I realised that I couldn’t see my army strength. The number was blocked by my cards. This wasn’t a problem in the tutorial, as I didn’t have enough of a hand for it to happen.

Changing the resolution to a standard size 1920×1080, this wasn’t an issue, and I handily won my second game. Both rounds were fun, but this was a bit strange. I will look more into it during the week.

Initial thought though – this could be a lot of fun on the go. Maybe a Switch version?

Below my card is supposed to be my army strength
If you don't have cards, it's not a problem. Except I shouldn't have entered this fight!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

It was another week on Sleep Cove. Did some fishing, bought some stuff, started toying with my island setup. Still trying to get it right in my head.

Yesterday I messed up though. I completely forgot that Daisy Mae only sells turnips Sunday MORNING. When did I remember this? When Isabelle proudly informed me it was 12:01.

It’s far from the biggest issue in the world, but it was indicative of most of my week hahaha.

I need about another 100,000 bells to pay off my upstairs room. I think I will spend a night roughly planning out the changes I want to make to my island, and having fun fishing. Now that winter has officially hit my island, hopefully I will find some new fish and bugs to collect as well!

I also finally got to see a shooting star! Star fragments acquired, finally crafter a wand 🙂

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition – Switch

RPG’s are my game of choice for when I want to settle down and immerse myself in a world. I don’t have much time for that lately, but it is what I enjoy.

When Xenoblade Chronicles was announced, I was excited. I have a version for my DS, but that hasn’t been pulled out since last PAX. The Switch has basically replaced all of my handheld gaming, except for quick mobile diversions.

One reasonably universal downside to RPG’s is starting them. Fans are nodding, some people are probably confused.

Vast RPG worlds are great when you are in them, but it’s hard to invest in a game that drops you into it completely blind. So you get to do the introduction to the world. This is part story building, and part tutorial.

I am 40 minutes in, and I haven’t gotten to the first town to ‘start’ the game. This is what I mean by ‘starting them’ is a problem.

It looks gorgeous on the Switch, even playing in handheld mode. It might take a week, but I will make it to the village and get my first taste of the game soon.

Figure 3-4 more weeks, and I can start playing it properly!

The bodies of these two huge creatures is the world you will explore
No spoilers, but when I watched this happen all I could think was "Justice"

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

My Gaming Challenges for 2020

I’m going to play so many games this year! That’s the plan anyway 🙂

So I have told you my favourites games for 2019. We looked at what I wish I could have played in 2019. We even went through what I am looking forward to in 2020.

But what about my gaming goals? Bottom line, we play ultimately to enjoy our gaming experiences. So what would setting goals do to help this?

I have seen (and in the past set) goals that have hurt my gaming. I was playing just to hit some abstract number. Playing games should be fun, and if you have to drag yourself to a game, that isn’t great for anyone.

But there is also the trap of “I can do it later”. We all know this one. Busy at work? We make the excuse of playing more later. But once you start going down that hole, it can be hard to come back up. That’s where the challenges help me.

As demonstrated by Last Week’s gaming, sometimes I play a lot of games, other times I hardly play anything. Not playing games isn’t a bad thing, except when that’s what you want to do. We all joke about gaming backlogs and the shelves of shame, but the goals will helpfully put a dent in all this.

All that said, let’s have a look at my gaming goals for 2020 🙂

Board Game Goals

Late last year, I made a few goals for myself about 1/4 of the way through the year. I came closer than the stats suggest, mainly because I keep forgetting to record plays!

I didn’t make it though. It’s not the end of the world, and I know why. So I am hoping that making my personal challenges ‘public’, this will change this year!

But why am I doing this? It boils down to just wanting to see how much I am sacrificing gaming time through the year.

Goal 1 – Record 100 plays of games that I haven’t recorded before

OK, so this one can be a bit of a cheat. In a perfect world, this would be play 100 new games, but that’s not happening. While I buy a lot of games, 100 new games would almost be all I played. So if there is an old favourite that I hadn’t recorded – it counts.

Recording 100 new games does sound insane. In the future, this count would likely be coming down. But when you think about the games Alpal continuously shows me and events like PAX Aus, it’s not impossible. Coupled with replaying games on games nights that just weren’t recorded, I think I can do it this year.

Goal 2 – Record 250 plays

This works alongside the 100 new titles. Now, I admit this sounds just as crazy, but not really. While not running at the moment, I have a regular games night at home. I also have separate game days with Alpal. Hopefully I will be starting a semi-regular date night games session Rabbit this year. This breaks down to only a few games each week, and that is pretty much what I do anyway.

Failing this last year was because I kept putting off playing games coupled with not recording plays. 2020, I hope to change all this. Partially for a better record for me, and because I am hoping to make my own recording app. That means comparing my test data against a known solid system like BG Stats.

Currently I use BG Stats to track my games. It's a great program, but I want to tweak a few things

Goal 3 – Make sure certain games make it to the table

This one is a mixture of finish playing some campaigns, and starting to play others. For all of the campaign games, I am hoping to actually finish the campaigns this year as well. Because these games take a long time, there aren’t many I am picking some, and I want to get into them!

Pandemic Legacy Season 2

I started playing Pandemic Legacy Season 2 over a year ago. We have a long way to go before we finish it! Holidays, Marriage, Work, Health – all of the reasons for delaying the games were there. The four of us couldn’t make our times click. Hopefully this year we can power through with a session every couple of months!

The 7th Continent

I don’t know if I will solo this or not. The 7th Continent has been sitting on my shelf as a “When I can dedicate the time to it” game, and that excuse is wearing thin.

A card-based exploration and expansion adventure, The 7th Continent blew up on Kickstarter a few years ago, and it’s time to finally put it to the test!

Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Inc

So a lot of my game night crew are also in my PAX Aus crew. Clank! is one of those push your luck games that became a board gaming hit. I have only played Clank! In! Space! so far, but having a campaign version with the Acquisitions Inc crew? Yes, please!

I am hoping that Clank! Legacy will be the easiest one of these that I can get through this year. A couple of rounds of Clank! on the table, then see who would want to play regularly. What could go wrong with that? :p

Just want to get this one finished before Season 3 comes out!
I have had this beauty on my shelf of shame for a couple of years 🙁
Who wouldn't want to see how far Jim Darkmagic can push his luck?

Video Games

Yep, I have video games as well. Looking through my backlog, I think I have about 2500 of games I want to get through. My problem here is one of my favourite genres are RPG games, and they can take hundreds of hours to do everything!

As you may have seen with my board game goals, every hour I spend on one sort of game pulls time away from the other. This is a delicate balancing act that we all know about. My video game goals are a bit vaguer because they aren’t something I can schedule in like game nights and stick to.

On game nights, if I am not feeling 100%, I can pull out a more straightforward game and still play. If I am playing something like The Witcher or Breath of the Wild, I can’t just put it down for a couple of months. I have learned that lesson in the past! Hence, there are a bunch of games I have started but not gone back to. Any of these games I need to start again, and then I tend to play something newer instead.

So with all this in mind, my video games goals seem conservative. According to PlayStation year in review, I only played about 160 hours in 2019. While the Switch did stop me from playing on the PS4, it didn’t stop me playing that much. I also started and finished The Outer Worlds on Xbox that I got this year as well.

I know I started and raved about a few games last year. Astral Chain is one such game. It was great, I enjoyed playing it with Rabbit, but I left it too long and away it went. Link’s Awakening met the same fate.

So my goals I am hoping will be realistic, but if I don’t make them – ah well 🙂

This used to be more my gaming a month instead of a year. Wow.

Goal 1 – Finish 10 games this year

That’s right – 10 games. Compared to my board game goals, this sounds tiny. But if the last couple of years have taught me anything, it’s that video games are the first form of gaming that I have been cutting out.

Now, finishing games to me means seeing the end credits. I get through the story. There are going to be exceptions – Kingdom Hearts 3 first DLC Re:Mind has just come out, and I will be playing it. It’s Kingdom Hearts 3 media – of course I am. But it’s extra content and bosses, not a new game, so it doesn’t count.

What does count? Games like Resident Evil 3 that I will probably spend the entire weekend finishing. Also, backlog games – Breath of the Wild and The Witcher 3 are candidates. But expansion content, no matter how big? Off the list.

Goal 2 – Platinum/Complete 5 games

So here is a bigger one. Finishing a game is one thing – getting through the story and being happy with that.

Getting the Platinum is a PlayStation thing. If you earn all the the Trophies (Xbox Achievements) in a game, you are awarded one additional Trophy – the Platinum. In my mind, if I get all of the Xbox achievements in a game, I still got the Platinum it. I just don’t get an Xbox bonus achievement equivalent.

Completing a game means something completely different. In game, there are usually collectibles and equipment to unlock, and Completing a game (with the capital C) means you got all of them. Searched every area. Opened every chest. Seen every possible ending. These days, you tend to earn the platinum before you Complete a game. These runs for me are reserved for games I truly love and can’t put down.

Final Fantasy XV, my first game finish and Platinum for 2020, is a great example. I have earned the Platinum. But I haven’t completed the game. I started a New Game+ instead of reloading my save, so I haven’t done any of the extra dungeons or got the best weapons. And there are additional chapters as well I haven’t started.

So, Platinum and Complete are different things. But it took me an additional 20ish hours to earn the Platinum for Final Fantasy XV and based on the internet about another 80 hours to ‘complete’ it. I could finish another game or two in that time! Hence, low goals.

Candidates for games to Finish/Platinum/Complete

What games do I want to complete? Well, until you finish a game, it’s tough to say. Why would I want to potentially double the playtime for a game I thought was only OK?

If you look at my anticipated video games for 2020, it’s fair to say these are all candidates. Backlog titles, I have a lot to choose from. A couple of options I have shown below.

A game that flew under a lot of radars, but from all accounts is right up my alley
So here is hundreds of hours of game-play in one game
Not the longest game, but the grind to learn is no harder than huge RPGs

The one thing I am worried about is playing multiple RPGs in a row though. Genre fatigue is a thing, so my next game now that I have ‘done’ Final Fantasy XV won’t be a large open world adventure. Maybe Luigi’s Mansion 3?

But there is a lot that goes into Trophy/Achievement/Completionist runs. More than I am going to go into here. So guess what I am talking about Thursday?

What about your gaming goals? Do you have some for yourself? Let me know in the comments, or shout out on Facebook or Twitter!

Good luck with the Yeti hunt tomorrow!

JohnHQLD

Top 10 Most Anticipated Video Games for 2020

So many good games coming! What a way to see out a console generation

Getting release windows for upcoming board games is really hard. Video games almost have the opposite problem – there are a huge amount of titles to choose from!

We will still get new announcements during the year, but 2020 is shaping up to be amazing. And none of the next gen PS5 launch exclusives have even been announced yet!

As with all anticipated lists, dates can change. Two games on this list have already been delayed just in the past week! It doesn’t change the fact I want to play them, but it does make the 2020 criteria tricky.

Ah well, with all that said, what can’t I wait to play in 2020?

Number 10 – Outriders

Outriders looks really interesting. It is also being developed by People Can Fly, a development team that has flown under a lot of radars.

What is Outriders? All we really know for sure is that it’s a cooperative shooter for up to 3 players set in a sci-fi apocalypse like future. A lot of the visuals remind me of Stranger Things meets Death Stranding with guns.

People Can Fly have a pretty good shooter pedigree, even if their games didn’t necessarily meet with tremendous success. Bulletstorm comes to mind. It was a solid shooter with great visuals despite some story complaints.

So I am looking at Outriders similar to how I look at Borderlands – I think I will enjoy it. Still, I will enjoy it more if I can find a regular group to play with.

Number 9 – Gods and Monsters

I don’t know a lot about Gods and Monsters, but what I do know has my attention. Being developed by the same team that created Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, my first thought was Breath of the Wild in Greece.

I don’t think I am too far out with this assumption. At least, superficially.

The art style is gorgeous. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a game people tell me I need to play, with a vast open-world with hours of side-quests and story to explore.

I have a lot of games like this on my backlog. Gods and Monsters has made my anticipated list is because it managed to knock Assassin’s Creed Odyssee off my ‘get to it’ games list.

Number 8 – Destroy All Humans! Remake

This is a guilty pleasure choice for me. I have already ordered the collectors edition with the UFO (DNA Collectors edition). Destroy All Humans! is probably not a game for everyone, but I loved playing the original in the PlayStation 2 days.

An open-world adventure game set on late 50’s B movie style earth. The B movie setting works well, as you play an alien named Crypto that is trying to extract DNA from humans to save his race.

The humour is juvenile, the writing is intentionally corny, but it was amusing to relax, kick back and play. I am hoping the remake will be the same 🙂

Number 7 – System Shock

I love the System Shock games. They were my first taste of how a first-person shooter could be engrossing. Looking Glass Studios with System Shock and Thief were masters of this style of game, and for me, it all began with System Shock.

On the odd occasion, I have been known to run through System Shock 2 again. I can’t go back to the original. Not because it’s a bad game, but it hasn’t aged well control-wise. Even the Enhanced Edition couldn’t overcome this problem for me.

So why wouldn’t I be looking forward to an old favourite updated with modern control conventions?

Number 6 – Fairy Tail

I enjoy a lot of different anime. Some I enjoy for the multi-layered storytelling. Others are just mindless fun. Fairy Tail is one of the rare series that contains both depending on the story arc.

Given the success of the various Dragon Ball Z RPG games over the decades, it was surprising that no one had tackled a Fairy Tail game. All the elements are there. An extensive roster of characters to build from. The central guild/hub posting jobs for its members to earn money and experience. An established world with different terrains and conditions to explore.

And in 2020, I am getting my wish. I can form my team and go adventuring to my heart’s content. And as a turn-based battle system, so I can play that little bit longer when I am tired.

My only indecision is a question of which platform. PS4 or Switch? Oh, the choices!

Number 5 – The Last of Us Part 2

The Last of Us is hands down my choice of Game of the Decade. Are there games I enjoy more? Yes. But The Last of Us was a great example of gaming being both for adults and an artform. The storytelling is fantastic, and I don’t mean just the script. The non-verbal storytelling and diverse world and characters beat a lot of film and television writers.

So, of course, I am eagerly awaiting the sequel. But why the middling ranking you may ask? Not all stories need a sequel, in my opinion. I am not saying I don’t think Naughty Dog can do a proper sequel. But The Last of Us was so good, the potential for disappointment is real.

It’s also not a game you sit down and blow off steam with. The Last of Us was an emotional roller coaster that I had to get up and walk away from sometimes. Not because of a hard boss fight or difficult puzzle, but the story punches you hard at times. Well, it did for me at least.

I can’t wait to see what Naughty Dog has done with The Last of Us Part 2. But it’s a game I will need to be in the right frame of mind to sit and play through. This makes the next few games more likely for me to play before this one.

Number 4 – Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2

So, before the buggy Bethesda memes were even possible, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines was the poster child for bug-riddled adventure greatness.

Based on the World of Darkness RPG games from White Wolf, Bloodlines was an ambitious game that almost delivered on all of its promises. At least, once most the game-breaking bugs and glitches were patched out.

Waking up a vampire, picking a different clan didn’t just mean different starting stats, but thoroughly different play styles and story plots as well. Playing as a Nosferatu, for example, means you can only travel by sewer around the city. Your deformed appearance stops you from passing as human, and you must remain hidden at all costs.

Pick a dialogue choice that means an NPC sasses you as a Brujah? You are probably going to kill them in a blind rage.

Before the Witcher, Bloodlines was my open-world adventure RPG of choice. It still holds up well today with all of the patches. But a proper sequel? Yes, please!

Number 3 – Resident Evil 3 Remake

The remake of Resident Evil 2 was mindblowing. Keeping the game ‘Resident Evil’ while updating almost everything was no small feat.

Take that same engine, and do the same for Resident Evil 3? It was a no brainer. And I am not worried about the relatively short gap between releases. The original Resident Evil 2 and 3 came out closely together as well, partially because of the large number of reused assets. The Racoon City Police Departement can be pretty much lifted straight into RE3.

We even have hints of areas that will change playing Resident Evil 2 remake. We can see the aftermath of what we all knew were Nemesis battles, and now we can see them for ourselves.

Capcom has said they are changing even more in 3 than they did in 2, and on the whole, I can’t wait to see what they have done. I am going to miss the pick your path options from the original – apparently, they are out. But after the team did so well with 2, I look forward to seeing what they have replaced those choices with.

Number 2 – Final Fantasy VII Remake

The game that made a lot of people Final Fantasy fans. Three discs of epic adventure told with large amounts (at the time) of video cutscenes.

It was a console defining game for many. Even people that aren’t fans of the game can’t argue against its popularity.

And after cruel teases and years of outcry, we are getting more than we could have dreamed of. Not a remaster – there have been plenty of those. We are getting a from the ground-up remake that is still keeping all of the favourite fan moments.

The entire Final Fantasy VII story is being split into parts, making the remake more of an episodic game than a full release. If Square Enix is keeping their word, this is necessary. The already massive adventure is being expanded upon so much that Midgar is a game in itself.

This will go one of two ways. It will be received with Resident Evil 2 levels of praise, or it will be flamed entirely and is the only instalment we will get. Time will tell.

Number 1 – Cyberpunk 2077

I have been chomping at the bit for this since the initial teaser reveal 7 years ago. I am not the only one.

Already loving what CD Project Red had done with The Witcher series and being a fan of the original RPG, how could I not be? Rewatching the teaser over and over again, I remember yelling happily because of a poster in the window. The cinematic showed nothing gameplay-wise but showed vital pieces of the RPG lore to show they knew what they were making.

Watching the presentation at PAX Aus 2019 had me excited. Yes, it was scripted mainly. Showing specific areas and a couple of builds to show off options, nothing hands-on. But those options were there. You don’t have to tweak a set character to get through the game.

There were genuine playstyle differences in what was shown, with none being better or worse than the other. If you think one style is better, play that way. It doesn’t force stealth players to be shooters, or talkers to be hackers. Each option is viable, so you can play whatever way you think is the most fun.

We have a little longer to wait now. Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed until September. A lot of people have complained (the internet, how surprising). But think of the insane details included in The Witcher 3. If they want more time to do things, they can have it. And I will be waiting to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Honorable Mentions

Video game announcements tend to be made long before board game announcments, so there was a much bigger pool to pick from.

That said, there were four games I struggled to put on this list but just didn’t win out. In no particular order, they are:

Sports Story
Disnintegration
Iron Man VR
Bravely Default 2

Sports Story is the follow up to indie fun rpg Golf Story, which was a lot of fun. Light hearted and simple while remaining engaging, I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

Disintigration looks really cool. A mix of RTS and FPS, where humans have been transferred into robots. Think Cayde-6 on a species level. There have been a lot of missteps in these mashups before though, so I am hesitant.

Iron Man VR I hope will live up to the hype, but I am also looking at maybe a 5-6 hour game if I am lucky. Well, based on past VR games – it might surprise me.

The really close one was Bravely Default 2. The Bravely series on the DS was amazing, and I really want to see how a direct sequel plays out. I can’t explain why, but I don’t think we will see it in 2020. I have a feeling it will slip to a 2021 release. But you never know – it could be an ‘available now’ after a future Direct!

What do you think? Is there a game coming in 2020 you think should have been on this list? Let me know in the comments, Twitter @JohnHQLD or on my Facebook page!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Top 10 Most Anticipated Board Games for 2020

The new shiny games I know I want to get this year

Anticipation. It’s a wonderous thing. So many new things to look forward to, including what you don’t know is coming!

But like any time you try to read the future, it’s exciting and scary at the same time. What do I want to play more than anything else? It’s easy when you look back with all the information. Trying to predict what is coming – no so easy.

I have included games that are not only announced but should be in my hands this year. This excludes Kickstarters like the current Return to Dark Tower, as it won’t deliver until next year. As much as I can’t wait to play it, I can’t play it in 2020, so it’s out.

Will my Top 10 look anything like this list? Probably not. But enough about that – let’s get to the list!

Number 10 – Lander

This is a leap of faith addition. Lander is due to come to Kickstarter in March 2020, with no release date yet. It has been sent around to various game stores around the world for playtesting and demos. Not Queensland though – boo! :p

It also looks like a contender for quick manufacturing, so I am taking a chance it will be delivered by the years’ end.

But what is Lander? Think of a mix between Terraforming Mars and Catan, and that should put you in the right frame of mind. Build your area, control your resources, and trade with others trying to do the same.

Different game modes to help learn the game also help a lot. Expect a Kickstarter preview article when the campaign launches later this year.

Number 9 – Dungeon Drop

Dungeon crawlers are great fun, but they tend to have two things in common. First, a lot of setup and teardown time. Second, they can become multi-hour game sessions where a small mistake can invalidate hours of gameplay.

So what about a small scale dungeon crawler that can be set up, played and packed away in about 30 minutes? That is what Dungeon Drop is promising! Using cubes instead of minis may not be as appealing to some, but it keeps Dungeon Drop small and affordable.

I missed the Kickstarter, but it should be hitting retail later this year, and I will nab a copy then!

Burgle Bros was a fun little adventure that is on my ‘Need to get into my games night’ list. I quite enjoy it, as did a lot of people as its popularity increased over the years. I get most of my plays on my phone, which for this game isn’t as fun as playing with people around a table.

And now, in 2020, the sequel should be coming to me from the successful Kickstarter! Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers isn’t just more Burgle Bros. There are streamlined mechanics and new challenges to overcome.

New rooms, new decisions, new gear even! Expect this to come up a few times once it arrives, even if only in solo mode 🙂

Number 7 – Kemet: Blood and Sand

This will be much higher in some peoples choices for great games coming in 2020. For me, this might take some convincing to get some game night regulars to try it. So, a little further down my list.

Kemet is basically an area control game. Deploy your and try to keep areas the longest to collect points. One of its biggest draws is the Egyptian theme, which includes summoning monsters to fight with you.

Kemet is excellent, but it had some rules issues. This was addressed very well with a ruleset built with the Board Game Geek community, commonly referred to as Kemet 1.5.

Kemet: Blood and Sand goes even further in addressing these issues, without the limitations of existing components. I can’t wait to see how this goes.

Number 6 – Crypt X

Another Kickstarter that is being delivered this year all going well. Crypt X describes itself as a narrative puzzle. You must use the missing professor’s notes to discover what has become of him.

The game contains 51 puzzles, solved with a mixture of physical and augmented reality. Each solution takes you further down the narrative path, and each problem is not necessarily stand alone.

Think Unlock! or other escape room in a box type games, but with a campaign mode and overarching story. Not 100% accurate, but close enough to explain why I am excited by Crypt X.

I might be playing this on date nights with Rabbit rather than a game night experience, but it should be a heap of fun.

Hostage Negotiator is a game I pick up and put down regularly. It has an app version that works well, even if graphically there could be improvements.

Hostage Negotiator: Career does just what you think it does from the title. It takes the solo gameplay of the original and adds a career mode to the game.

Will this make Hostage Negotiators gameplay better? Probably Not. It should be more of the gameplay I know with some add ons. Hostage Negotiator is already an excellent game. The career mode will just give me a reason to play a few more games more regularly, and that can’t be a bad thing.

Number 4 – Deep Space D-6: Armada

I have spoken a few times about Deep Space D-6, the strangely absorbing space dice worker placement game. I even got around to giving it a review.

One of the things I wished I could do was play this game with others. It’s not that I don’t like solo gaming, it’s just games give me an excuse to catch up with friends. Solo gaming rarely lets me do that.

That is all set to change because the follow-up game Deep Space D-6: Armada is on Kickstarter, and delivers this year! Now I can work with my friends to save the galaxy 🙂

Read my review, check out the Kickstarter (there should still be 2 days left to back it!) and see why I can’t wait for this game.

I have written about this Australian Werewolf inspired game before. It even made my most anticipated games of 2018 list. Ooops, bit of a time slip there 🙂 I have even had the chance to watch a couple of games while at PAX Aus.

Werewolf and The Resistance were social deduction staples at my game stores game nights. Playing such games is mostly how I formed my more recent circle of friends.

Blood On The Clocktower is more than just a ‘werewolf clone’, and I cannot wait to start hosting games at my game nights soon after it is delivered.

Number 2 – Escape the Dark Sector

So you know I love Escape the Dark Castle. I have reviewed it. Made a podcast episode about it. It even made my Top 10 games of 2019! OK, through a couple of small technicalities, but you can see I love it.

Why wouldn’t I be waiting to move from the castle into space? It’s not just a retheme though, there are some new additions to the gameplay as well.

I am delighted that Themeborne can now refer to the Escape The Dark as a series, and can’t wait to see what else is in store down the line.

Number 1 – Cosmic Encounter Duel

This was a by the skin of its teeth contender for this list. It was literally revealed while putting the draft article on the site, requiring a quick re-shuffling of my list!

Cosmic Encounter is excellent and has been loved (and lovingly hated!) for almost 45 years. Various new editions have come out over the years, but the core gameplay has remained largely intact over that time.

One problem with the original game is it isn’t great at two players. So why not take a page from 7 Wonders book and make a two-player version? Hello, Cosmic Encounter Duel.

I know a few people that would play Cosmic Encounter more if there were more players available. Now, if it’s just a pair of us, we can still play it! I will also be able to introduce this as a date night game with Rabbit, who I don’t believe has played Cosmic Encounter.

How can one of my favourite games of all time, coming in a version I can play with just one other person, not be my most anticipated game of 2020?

What do you think? Is there a game coming in 2020 you think should have been on this list? Let me know in the comments, Twitter @JohnHQLD or on my Facebook page!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD