Last Week’s Gaming – June 29th, 2020

Animal Crossing 20200629

Time to turn my eyes away from huge workloads, and back onto my backlog

The last few weeks have been hard. When I haven’t been working, I have been hiding from the world in general. It hasn’t been the greatest of times.

But, that’s the job. It’s no different from retail work on the holidays, or hospitality staff on a Friday night. It’s a hard run, but it’s the job and it’s done.

So while I am looking at getting back into games I have been neglecting (and catching up with people I have missed), that doesn’t mean I haven’t played any games!

Blood Rage Digital – Steam

What can I say – it keeps pulling me back in. Blood Rage is a heap of fun to play, and being able to leave it open or end my day with a game has let me get in quite a few games.

Things are even being fixed at an amazing rate. I can even start a game in the morning, and come back to it later now.

I still say playing around a table with friends is better, but to kick back and enjoy a game solo on my own time is great. I have been increasing the difficulty and playing with the styles. This lead to my best score to date!

Check out my review for more thoughts, but expect to see Blood Rage for at least a couple more weeks in Last Week’s Gaming.

Blood Rage - Best Score so far
My best score so far is with eveyone at medium and playing adaptive playstyles. I have not done as well since :p

Minesweeper Genius – Switch

I picked this up to get through a few more levels, and it was a bit of fun.

While I am jumping between the relatively simple early levels to the pictured ‘Special’ levels, the difficulty jump is obvious.

Minesweeper Genius is a little bit of a sleeper hit on my Switch. Nice to play while I have YouTube running, and I can just turn it off when I feel overwhelmed.

Hopefully, I will be finished it all in a couple of weeks, and I will do a formal review then.

MineSweeper Genius - Whoops
I was reasonably confident I had figured where most of the mines were. I was mistaken.

The Outer Worlds – Switch

As I wanted to finish my review, I obviously gave The Outer Worlds a bit of a run last week.

Everything I said holds true, and on the weekend while I had a half hour to kill I loaded up my save and did a small quest line. This is where games like this come to life on Switch.

That said, it will probably be a while before I finish this run. Now that end of financial year is done, I intend to jump back into Final Fantasy VII Remake with a gusto!

The Outer Wolds - The Crew
I have done a couple of quests, but I am not hitting it hard. I have Final Fantasy VII to get back to...

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

Another week down, and another week of jumping in and out of Animal Crossing. This week, I made a pretty good return on the Turnip exchange, and I have paid off my house!

I will probably go easy this week, as I hope to be playing some other games I have been neglecting. But it’s time to get my island renovations sorted 🙂

I am thinking a residential area, a rural area, and a fun area. Time to go shopping for stuff as well!

Animal Crossing - Home paid off
The last home loan paid off. Now to build funds for island renovations.

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 tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Last Week’s Gaming – June 22nd, 2020

Animal Crossing - What's up Twinkles

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?

One Deck Dungeon - I might be in trouble
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!

One Deck Dungeon - Building Up Warrior
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!

Blood Rage - Gathering Forces
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!

Blood Rage - Never count yourself out until the scores are final
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.

Minesweeper Genius - Level Select
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.

Minesweeper Genius - Advanced Stages
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.

The Outer Worlds - Primal Behemoth
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.

The Outer Worlds - Loading Screen
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 🙂

Animal Crossing - Poor Snowfolk
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.

Animal Crossing - Totaka's Song
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

Last Week’s Gaming – June 8th, 2020

The digital board games continue, but not as much as I would have liked. Also, The Outer Worlds on Switch – is it as bad as people say?

Before we get started, I am not reviewing The Outer Worlds on Switch today. I have barely touched it. But I have seen a bunch of ‘Stay Away’ headlines on my YouTube feed, and I am wondering how much of it is warranted.

During the week, I will try and play at least to the point where I get my first companions. That should be pretty indicative of how everything runs for the rest of the game.

But other than that, I played a lot of Dragon Castle this week. I got to visit Alpal for the first time in ages, and playing Dragon Castle with the tiles is as satisfying as I remember!

But I will get into that soon. For now, let’s look at what I did play Last Week!

Blood Rage – Steam

So on Friday, I released my review of the digital implementation of Blood Rage. You can check out my thoughts here.

For sitting back and getting in a game solo against the AI, it has been satisfying. I have been winning the last couple of rounds against two easy AI opponents, so I think I have the basics back down.

Time to increase things to 5 player games, then mixing up the difficulty levels.

As I say in my review, if you want to play Blod Rage solo, the Digital Edition is a great alternative. Multiplayer wise, I am waiting for some more patches before revisiting my review score.

Blood Rage Digital
I had some issues with widescreen layout, but the game itself looks great and will run on almost any Windows 10 machine

Dragon Castle – Steam and Physical

Another game recently reviewed that made it back to the table this week! Dragon Castle is a relaxing yet challenging little abstract puzzle, that was great to kick back and unwind with.

Saturday I got to visit Alpal, and as she hadn’t played it for a while, we broke out the physical copy. The ‘click’ of all those Mahjong tiles was as satisfactory as I remember and really does add to your enjoyment while playing.

Being at the end of the week, I could only get in a couple of games before my brain started rebelling. Being able to sit and chat during the game with Alpal was great, and it made for an enjoyable afternoon overall.

Dragon Castle Alpals Castle
I was mean and took the last black tiles. No pattern for her! Sorry Alpal 🙁

Tetris 99 – Switch

Picking up the Switch during the week, I decided to look at games I haven’t touched in a while (or ever). And there was good old trusty Tetris 99.

Firing up a normal Tetris 99 game, I did OK. I haven’t played in a while, and so coming around the 20ish spot was satisfying. I was still pretty drained though, so I decided to switch styles.

Firing up Marathon mode, I thought I would see how far I could go in 999 Line mode. Then came a chill half hour before my brain basically pulled a ‘nope’ on me.

Tetris 99 999 Line Mode
Just kick back and see how far ou can go. Marathon mode is a nice diversion for 'real' Tetris 99.

It was nice to lie back on the couch and just let the zen-like state of Tetris flow over me. I didn’t get into ‘nope’ mode until I tried to pay attention to the furkids and YouTube while playing at the same time.

As usual, my advice is if you have Nintendo Online, grab Tetris 99 for yourself. Even if it is just for a diversion to come back to at times.

The Outer Worlds – Switch

The Outer Worlds, for me, is a great RPG adventure title. Does it have bugs? Sure. Probably fewer now, I finished it pretty quickly when it was released.

But you can build or break alliances with people or factions as you see fit. You can choose to explore the worlds, or just follow the quest markers. There are many ways you can build your character to let you play the game as you want to play it.

All this, coupled with the chance to play portability of the Switch, made me look forward to the port. Playing the opening title, I was impressed at how the Switch handled things in handheld mode.

Things looked a little fuzzy, and the dense foliage seems to have been pulled out, but it was playing a lot better than I thought it would.

Even the load times, which on my Xbox One S drove me mad every time entered a town or loaded my game, seemed better.

Then I started seeing the negative headlines on my YouTube feed. I have stayed away from as many reviews as I can, but the negative press is prominent.

So this week, I am going to get a fair way into The Outer Worlds and see if I can see what everyone is talking about. Expect to see all this as a review in the next week or two.

The Outer Worlds Switch Load Screens
Do thigns take a while to load on Switch? Yes. But these screens didn't ge to me like I thought they would.
The Outer Worlds Switch Edgewater
In handheld, it didn't look quite as bad. But it did look soft, and the world not as full of life.
The Outer Worlds Xbox One S
On the Xbox One S, more details and no 'fuzzy' buildings, but a lot more powerful hardware than the Switch.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Switch

So after last week’s lack of Turnip purchases, this week I paid off my 4th extension and bought up a bunch of turnips to start trying to build up some cash.

During the week, I didn’t ignore Animal Crossing, but I didn’t go out of my way with my island either. At least 5 nights was login for Nook Miles, bury bells and grab the money tree – that was it.

No, I am not helping with the anniversary photos either. I think the new activity is kind of cute, but I am not much of a wedding person at the best of times, sorry Harv.

I do now have the clothing store, so that’s progress. I completely forgot the game told me about the sisters wanting to set up shop permanently.

This means I might have to sit down and actually look hard at what other possible buildings or structures could be in store. Time to get ‘serious’ about finishing my island and getting 5 stars – then I think I can ‘finish’ my game of Animal Crossing.

Animal Crossing Erik is an adorable weirdo
He is cute, and his heart is in the right place, but really Erik?
Animal Crossing Able Sisters Opens
Is this my last building? Looks like I will need to go look it up!

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

Blood Rage Digital Edition Review (and physical game thoughts)

Blood Rage Cover Art
Released 2016
Designer Eric M. Lang
Publisher CMON (Website)
Players 2 – 4 (5 with expansion)
Playing Time 20 – 30 minutes per player
Category Resource Management
Hand Management
Area Majority
Minis on a Map
BoardGameGeek View on BGG
Released 2020
Platform Steam
Publisher Asmodee Digital (Website)
Developer Exozet (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1 – 5
Category Resource Management
Hand Management
Area Majority
Minis on a Map

To play Blood Rage alone, this is a great adaption. There are quite a few caveats, though.

The first in a series of games from Eric M. Lang and CMON, Blood rage mixes minis on a map with strong Euro game elements. Released about four years ago, Blood Rage had a lot of hype and for many just faded away.

I still remember my first game of Blood Rage fondly. It was at PAX Aus 2016, and I managed to luck my way into a Loki strategy win. What’s a Loki strategy? I tried to lose more than I won and got to penalise the winners and steal points.

But the bottom line is I only want to play Blood Rage with that general group. It was a group of people that know each other reasonably well, and in-game rivalry with smack talk and tit-for-tat making sub-games within the overall game. We all enjoy heavy games now and then, and while Blood Rage has heavy elements, it’s ‘medium’ style gameplay makes it more likely to hit the table.

So when Blood Rage Digital was announced with its own Kickstarter, I was intrigued. A lot of digital Kickstarters get started and go off the rails. CMON was (in my opinion) padding the finding by offering physical copies of the game at higher pricing. So I decided to sit and wait rather than back it.

But the game is here now, and I grabbed a copy.

Well, that’s interesting and all, but what is Blood Rage?

Blood Rage is a Viking/Norse Mythology based game for 2-4 players. This can be increased to five players with an expansion, and the digital version plays 5 out of the gate.

A lot of different game elements are blended into a glorious mess. At its core, you put your army on the board and fight to pillage villages for bonuses and Glory. There is card drafting and hand management, which adds strategy elements to the game.

This drafting also adds memory elements to the strategy. Each player has a selection of cards, you pick one, then pass the remaining cards to the next player. This means players see almost all cards that are available that round. But each round, a certain number of cards are never introduced into the selection, so you never know if someone beat you to a card or if it isn’t in that game.

Blood Rage Physical Components
Before you ask - yes, this takes ages to setup properly

When you are playing, you also have resource management to consider. Most actions cost Rage, so think of them as Action Points in most other games. You can only have a certain number of minis on the board, as denoted by your Horns. When fighting, you will earn Glory (points) for fighting, and you can upgrade the number of points you earn by upgrading your Axes.

Combat is relatively simple – the player with the highest strength in the contested area wins. Each player in combat must play one card during the battle. These cards can add strength, modify abilities, or be virtually ‘blank’ cards.

Blood Rage Physical Cards and Boards
It looks like a lot, and it is, but once you have the basics down information is easily read at a glance

At the end of each phase, Ragnarok happens. This destroys an area on the board and sends any mini in that area to Valhalla. During this part fo the phase, you can also complete Quests for more Glory.

At the end of three phases, the player with the most Glory wins.

Wait, what? That’s a lot of game to follow!

Blood Rage is a simple enough game, but it has a lot of ‘simple’ things to keep track of all at once. This is why I don’t consider Blood Rage a game for everyone. Only certain types of gamer will enjoy this sort of game style.

That said, Blood Rage is a lot simpler than many popular ‘heavy’ games, so it’s an excellent middle ground for a wider audience.

So I should pick up the physical copy?

If you can find one! The physical copy of Blood Rage also suffers from what I term CMON Kickstarteritis. Yes, I know that’s not a real word. :p

Blood Rage really shines with more players. The physical game lets you do up to 5 players with an expansion, but once you play the retail copy you quickly realise you need to Kickstarter exclusives to make the most of it.

It’s almost impossible to track down retail copies this far after it’s release, and if you can find a Kickstarter collection, it will either be a steal or incredibly expensive.

Blood Rage Physical Amazon Listing
This was a snap of Amazon.com Friday, June 5th. Remember, that's USD!

That’s why I was excited about the digital edition. Apart from being able to play Blood Rage far more often with AI players, it also included almost all of the Kickstarter expansions.

But because the physical copy was getting hard to find in 2018 when the digital version Kickstarter launched, it looked like most of the money was going to the physical copy. Only about 12% of the number of backers wanted the digital-only copy. 

That leaves almost 8,500 backers that wanted the digital copy with the physical game add ons. I have no idea how many of those people then added the original game to their pledge to get a ‘complete’ set.

So without being able to see how much would actually go to the development of the digital version, I decided to hold off and wait.

And now, Blood Rage Digital exists. The Good Points.

I have had a few games solo with the AI, at 3 and 4 players. I am still playing against ‘easy’ opponents. Still, as I have won the last 3 games mainly by upgrading my stat tracks, I will be upping the difficulty soon.

Being able to play a few games kicking back and relaxing whenever I want is great, and I have really enjoyed playing the few games that I have.

I can say hand on heart that the game plays very closely to the board game. The feeling of dread waiting for cards to be revealed is all there. The disappointment at missing a favourite card is there.

The pacing of the game is a little slow. It takes a bit too long to resolve quests, combat, that kind of thing. Having to sit and wait without a ‘speed up’ option is confusing.

Blood Rage Digital Drafting
Decisions, decisions. The feeling between digital and physical for if you are choosing right is just as stressful!

Why do I include this in the ‘good’ section? Because when you are learning the game, being able to see each card and each section slowly helps you quickly determine the flow of the game and tactics involved.

Seeing the minis on the board look great. It’s not the best graphics I have seen in a game, but you can play it on almost any Windows machine. I will take a little bit of a graphical presentation hit to play Blood Rage on any device happily.

Access to the information on cards and rules mid-game is also reasonably well done. From the main menu, you can browse all the cards and their effects. Not all digital implementations do this, and I am glad Exozet and CMON included this.

Blood Rage Digital Compendium
I wish more digital board games let you look throught he decks outside of the actual 'game'

And the bad.

A common issue I have with many digital implementations is the tutorial. Blood Rage Digital’s tutorial isn’t the worst I have seen, but it could still be a bit better.

My advice here is to watch a tutorial on the board game. The rules are the same, and some of the intricacies are explained a lot better in tutorials like those from Rodney at Watch it Played.

That’s not to say the tutorial is terrible – there are even sections of the compendium that describe drafting strategies, which is great!

But even as someone that knows how to play the game, there were sections of the tutorial I looked at and was confused why some information wasn’t there. Prior knowledge of the rules going will definitely a plus.

If you want to learn Blood Rage completely within the digital game, everything is in the compendium but it’s a lot of text to absorb. So if you rather learn by watching a video, check out the video.

If you look at the Steam reviews, there is one facet of the game that apparently needs a lot of work – online multiplayer. Apparently, people are having a lot of trouble being able to play against friends online.

I haven’t tried this yet, but I did grab Harls a copy recently as a gift with the idea of playing against him online. Harls is the sort of player I can have a lot of fun playing Blood Rage with, but it’s not much of a two-player game. Adding AI fixes this while letting us play together.

At least, it would if it worked.

Blood Rage Digital Steam Page
If you were just browsing, I could understand skipping the game on this alone

There is also the controls themselves. Earlier, I mentioned that the pacing is a bit slow. Sometimes, you can hit a skip button if you can’t do an action, for example, if you can’t play an additional card. This doesn’t always happen though, which is strange.

I can’t say for certain that this is a design choice. If you play, you will notice at times cards and other screen elements sit over the controls. I wonder if at times you have this speed option available, but you can’t see it on screen.

Blood Rage Digital UI Issues
Why is Skip hiding? And this is at 'normal' screen size

Playing on an ultrawide monitor makes this user interface issue a lot worse. Playing on my ‘game’ screen at 2560×1080, elements like the strength of my army are hidden by my cards.

When 21:9 and similar aspect ratios first started appearing, a typical display issue was the game/application would zoom the screen. The program would fill the width of your screen with the contents, but that would crop the height from what you can see.

Five years ago, with the tech being still new, this was mostly understandable and early adopters needed to work around the issue. In 2020, this just feels sloppy.

Blood Rage Digital Funny Aspect Bugs
You can see where the title and bottom of the banner is being cut off. I am supposed to click on Continue. The button below the bottom of the screen.

Even worse, when finishing a game in ultrawide, you can’t continue on to the final score, because you can’t click on the continue button. So you will never honestly know if you won a game or not.

These display element issues might seem like a problem only for a few users. Still, the fact they are happening at all makes me wonder what other glitches are happening at ‘normal’ resolutions.

The only other thing I wish was available was a ‘save’ system. It can be an XCom ironman type save, where you only have one save slot that happens at the end of each player turn. This way, you can’t go back and try and cheese the game with different strategies until you dominate.

Blood Rage Digital Widescreen Issues
Why hide my army strength? I can count my minis, but once cards come into play, that doesn't help!

Playing solo, a game takes me about 30-40 minutes with 2 AI players. I would love to be able to leave and take a break mid-game. Also, such a system may help when multiplayer crashes instead of the entire games progress being lost.

So stay clear?

Here’s the funny thing – I think Blood Rage Digital is a great implementation, it just needs a lot of fixes. Some are hopefully simple to make, some might take time.

Playing solo, I have had no real problems other than having to change my screen to 1920×1080 when I want to play. I have enjoyed quite a few games, and I don’t regret the purchase at all.

While I am yet to play online multiplayer, until more patches have been made (and to Exozets credit, there have been updates quite often already), I won’t even by trying except as an experiment.

You can’t even play Blood Rage with a screen sharing local game properly, because this will reveal players entire hands to everyone. The multiplayer needs to be fixed to recommend Blood Rage Digital to more than solo players.

Overall Thoughts

Blood Rage is a sound implementation of the original board game and makes for an excellent alternative for solo players.

The low system requirements mean that players can play on pretty much any computer that runs Windows 10. This means the entry-level for a ‘video game’ is easy to achieve.

If you want to play Blood Rage Digital online though, a lot of work needs to be done to get this working properly.

I would rate the Kickstarter version of Blood Rage’s physical copy a 7.5 and the retail copy a 7. But until the issues mentioned are addressed, I couldn’t give the digital version a higher score. Even though it works great as a solo game, board games are better played with others – even digitally.

Overall
6/10
6/10

Pros

  • A lot of fun to play solo against AI
  • Can play well even on ‘work’ computers
  • Faithful adaption of the board game

Cons

  • Lots of issues with multiplayer
  • Some screen elements seem to be broken or having issues

Until next time,

JohnHQLD