Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Comic Books, Part 2

This week ended the reboot of the DC universe.  Throughout the month, they released 52 new #1 issues.  It will be interesting to see how many of these 52 comic books find an audience and actually keep going.  I checked out the digital previews for all 52 issues, but in the end I only tried eight of them.  The big question is which ones will I stick with.  What follows are my thoughts about each of the different issues, and what the likely hood of continuing to read the series will be:

 As I stated at the beginning of the month I was going to check this one out because I really liked the cover.  I am glad I did, because this was easily my favorite one.  The story telling was great, and I really liked how they portrayed batgirl as a character with depth.  She has enough confidence to dress up and fight crime, but at the same time she deals with a good deal of insecurity.  The issue also introduced an intriguing villain.   For the foreseeable future, I plan to stick with Batgirl.

Detective Comics/Batman
PhotobucketI am lumping these two together because they are both Batman comics.  I am fairly sure that I am going to follow one of them, but I am not sure which one.  I liked the artwork of Detective comics more.   However, I liked the story telling and pacing of Batman more.  Back to Detective comics, I think the  first story arc sounds more intriguing and if Detective comics stays true to the name, I like the idea of having more mystery oriented stories. I think in the end, I will plan on following both of them for the first story arc, and then based on which story arc I liked the best stick with that one.
Green Arrow
I am a little torn on Green Arrow.  As I mentioned previously, he is one of my favorite characters.  For the reboot, they basically made the Green Arrow as Steve Jobs, the superhero.  This works in some ways, and it gives him a supporting cast that is good.   I like the set up for the first story arc (people using super powers to feed narcissism and gain fame).   However, I found some of the scripting and dialogue to be not the greatest.   I will stick with Green Arrow for the first few story arcs, but if I find this reading monthly comic books is costing more than I want, this might be the first one that I drop.   

All Star Western
PhotobucketI think it is kind of neat that for this reboot, DC reached way back into the history for this title.  In practice, this is a continuation of the Jonah Hex series, but eventually they will have some side stories in the back after the main story starring Hex.  The first issue was outstanding, as it takes place in a Victorian Era Gotham City.  Everything about the story worked really well, and at the end I was really looking forward to the next issue.  I suppose that means they got me on this one for sure.  

Blue Beetle 
I had read that Blue Beetle was going to be a 100% re-boot.  With a lot of these, especially Batman the re-boot picked up in the middle.  They cut out a lot of the surrounding stuff, but it is clear that Batman has been doing his thing for a few years already.  However, I was interested in getting in on the ground floor of  a super hero.  The Blue Beetle who is a teenage kid who, through a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, merges with an alien artifact that crafts him into the Blue Beetle.  The artifact's original design is to completely re-program the main character and use him as a weapon to destroy earth.   However, since the artifact was damage the Blue Beetle can resist the artifact and attempt to use the powers for good.  The whole thing is very "comic bookey" and that is ok.  I am not sure if  I want to continue this because. . . .
I also really liked Grifter.  From now on, I will be buying these on month behind when they drop in price a dollar, so I do not want to follow more than five books because that will still be $10 a month.  This means that I  can only go with Blue Beetle or Grifter.   I loved the set up of Grifter.  The main character, wakes up preventing some sort of invasion of the body snatchers style take over of his body by an alien.  However, since the process had started he  can now hear these aliens telepathic communications.  This leads him to killing these aliens, who other see as normal people.  The whole first issue had a real TV pilot feel to it, and it got me interested.   However, Batgirl, Batman, Green Arrow, and Jonah Hex are all non-super powered characters like Grifter.  Granted Grifter uses guns and is more of the reluctant hero/ amoral hero, but for variety sake I might want the more super powered Blue Beetle, but at the same time I want to know what happens in Grifter.  I am leaning to Blue Beetle, but still undecided.  

Demon Knights
The way they try to sell Demon Knights is like the Magnificent Seven in the Dark Ages, with magic.  That is a decent description.  I thought the art of this comic was good, but for me the story left a bit to be desired.  It is a cliche in fantasy RPGs that adventures start with all of the character happening to all be in the same tavern at the right time that some sort of event happens that propels them on their quest.  This also describes the first issue of Demon Knights.  I thought it was ok, but it was not compelling enough for me to stick with it. 

I know that in January or some time near the beginning of next year, they are going to release two more new titles, Justice Society of America and Batman, Inc.  I plan on checking out both of those as well.  I enjoyed re-exploring comics this month.  It was fun to be part of the excitement of this relaunch, and I hope the same good feelings continue over the months as I read the first few story arcs of my chosen series. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Enhancing Games

While I did post it on facebook, I failed to mention here that I am very close to succeeding in my goal this year (and last year) of making my own game.  If you are curious you can check it out here.  I am hoping to make final improvements and make the game available as a free "print and play" game.   I had fun making this game, and I do have a couple of ideas for other games.  However, I have realized something about myself.  When it comes to being creative, I may enjoy creating content for something that already exist rather than create something new.
I think this is why I enjoy being the game master in a role playing game so much.  There is a lot of potential for being creative, but I do not have to start from the scratch.  The frame work and nitty gritty details (such as the the mechanics, game balance, and over arching theme/feel of the game) has been done by someone else.  I then have the creativity to play within that frame work.  It is kind of like the difference between finding new ways to play in a playground that someone else built and building one's own playground.

With that in mind I have been thinking the past couple of weeks of ways that I would like to improve games I already have. 
Warcosm is a starship combat game that is extremely easy to play and a lot of fun.  The biggest problem is that the game is from a small company and the ugly components are substandard.  I want to improve this game in two ways.  The first is to make a mounted hex board to play on, and to replace the mono-chromatic, really small counters with bigger more colorful ship counters.  This is a fairly easy fix.  On the website, and indie RPG website there are several PDFs of Star map hexes and starship counters available.
The other thing I want to do is create scenarios.  One of the things Warcosm allows players to do is to easily create new star ships.  Much like a miniatures game, I want to create a whole fleet of readily available ship types for the races in the game.  Then for creating various scenarios the objective and situational rules will need to be defined.  Each scenario will have a point limit, and ships can be selected from the lists of created ships to fill the point limit for the engagement.
The best part is that the website for Warcosm, has an open,unanswered call for someone to do something like this.  Knowing that others might be able to enjoy what I create is a strong motivator.

I know that objectively when compared to a lot of other games, Zombies is not that great.  However, it was one of my first "real" (read: Non-mass market) games.  The components (plastic zombies, city tiles, cards) are excellent and it really seems that they could be used to support a much better game.
I do not think it would take a whole lot of effort to make Zombies into a Left 4 Dead like board game.  It could be either a co-op game or an overlord vs. players game.   I have several ideas on how to make this happen, but I think for it to be really effective I would need a slightly smaller scale to work with something like the graveyard expansion or prison expansions for the game:
I am kind of torn on this one though.  Part of me wants to go ahead and order the expansions that I feel like i need to create something awesome and have something ready to go by Zombie Day (October 29th this year!).  The other part of me is hesitant to spend money for expansions that are for a game that I really do not play much at all.

This is a fairly easy one to do, but the most expensive option.  I got Elfball at Gen Con this year.  The main business model of Elfball is to be a vehicle for selling miniatures. I opted to get the paper stand-ins for the miniatures so I could mess around with all of the teams.  However,  I have been looking for a reason to try my hand at painting miniatures for a while, and this seems like a good place to start.
Wooden Ship and Iron Men
This is a very fun game of naval warfare that has a unique way of doing simultaneous turns.  While I like the game, I have to admit it is not much to look at
This is a game that is just crying out for miniatures to make it awesome:
The problem is that miniatures of this type are rather expensive.  There is an old game from the 60's called Broadsides that has plastic miniatures that I hear work really well, and I could probably find the game on ebay for not to much.  However, Abigail really dislikes this game.  I like it enough to keep it, but I am not sure I want to spend money improving it.

So that is what I am thinking about.  If I decide to go for the Zombies improvement, I will probably start that soon, and if I decide against it I will start working on Warcosm.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Comic Books

For several years (from 4th grade to Sophomore year of high school)  I was really big into comic books.  My main comic books at that time were X-Men comics.  I kind of gave up on comic books for four reasons.  First, we moved to Ramsey and the closest place to buy comics was over 20 minutes away.  Second, my subscriptions ran out just after Marvel Comics had declared bankruptcy and  there was some question if they would continue publishing.  Third, I was getting tired of the soap opera nature of X-Men.  The comic had originally appealed to me because the X-Men were persecuted because they were different.  However, the X-Men story lines were increasingly becoming introverted and more about the inter-dealings of the X-Men, their friends, and personal enemies.  I was also annoyed that story lines that started when I was in 5th grade still had not been resolved by my sophomore year of high school.  The final reason is that I began to get into the Star Wars CCG and RPG and the money available to a high student without a job was limited. 

Despite that, I still enjoyed comic books.  I find comics as an avenue for story telling to be a great one.  The mixture of art and narrative is rather compelling.   A couple of years ago, I spent about 16 months reading the Walking Dead comic but it was troublesome for a couple of reasons.  First, I had to remember to go to the comic book store, and if I forgot then I might miss a month.   The second major issue was storage.  Comic books piled up. 

This year though, I have begun to get back into comic books some, mostly due to the iPad.  The iPad is a perfect fit for comic books.  One of the things I really like about it is the digital store never runs out of supply, so that I can get the issues I want at my leisure.  I also like that there is no storage issue. 

I have gotten a couple of one shots and mini-series, plus I have also committed to reading the first major story arc of  the Green Arrow series from several years ago.

I like the Green Arrow, because like Bat Man he is a hero who has no superhuman abilities.

I feel like this is a good time to get back into comic books because starting this week DC (one of the major comic book companies) is rebooting their entire universe.  All of their comics will start over at issue #1.  Instead of being shackled by 70+ years of  convoluted stories they will re-create everything.  I think that is an excellent and exciting idea.  I intend on getting  Detective Comics #1 to get in on new Batman story arcs.  I also plan on getting All Star Western #1, which is a pulp-ish Western.   In a few months  I might also check out Batgirl #1, mostly because I really like the cover.

The best part about the new reboot is that all of the issues will be released day and date on the ipad, so I can get the issues when they come out or I can wait and get them at some later date.  So I am looking forward to continue to tip-toe back into comic books.