Friday, September 29, 2017

Alt*Hero Rises

As I'm sure many of you are already aware, Vox launched his Alt*Hero project yesterday. Within four hours, it had met its 25k(US) goal. It is currently past the first stretch goal of 40k, and well, if it manages to get all the way to 70k, there will be a second omnibus.

I'm still a bit on the cautious side with my optimism for this project. Not for the funding side, it's already doing really well there, to the point where there's less than I believe 50 similar projects over the years that have done better on Kickstartr, a much larger platform. In fact, I(in addition to many) appear to have underestimated the demand for this type of project. Given that only 11 people are backing just to trigger the SJWs(no comics rewards), people that have been pretty quiet are using their money instead of their mouths.

Why have I been a bit cautious? Vox has admitted it's not his format. This is a bit of a concern if he doesn't understand the conventions of the media. Also, I was not impressed with the art early on. As I see more, it's growing on me, and the world is definitely becoming more immersive. The character designs look pretty good so far.

If the writing and art continue to improve(I mean for the medium, Vox's prose is excellent), this bodes very well for Castalia House Comics.  I'm guessing that Vox is turning in prose, rather than scripts, to his artists, as he's commented that he gave them what he thought was two pages of material, and it came out to three or four. This indicates not thinking in terms of the medium, and might actually be undermining the art. How? Because if Vox learns the trick he can pull if he starts thinking in panels and nonstandard layouts, he can write as though he's directing a movie, detailing each shot. Right now, the panel layout is pretty standard, and looks very much tied to comic strips(modern newspaper) or webcomic ideas.

Vox only recently found out that most work at the Big 2 is done for hire. Now, that's not the way with a lot of other places, because the do a lot more creator owned work. But, Vox finding this revelation might make it easier for him to deal with comics creators down the line, as he mentioned he will pay royalties, in addition to some flat fees. I don't have a clue how the fees will compare, but this will help draw guys like Chuck Dixon in when the time is right.

Given growth similar to what Castalia has had in print, I have no doubt that they'll become a real presence in comics within a couple of years. And I anticipate other players coming into being as well, both on the production and distribution side.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Boardgame mechanics: tile placement

Today, we're going to take a look at tile placement.While a lot of games use this for map building, there are also some that use it for territory control. The most popular tile shapes are hexagonal and square, as those are space filling shapes. There are a few games that use other shapes as well, though they are a minority.

This is one more chance to visit Keyflower. Each player ends up building their own village from the tiles.  Other players can use your buildings, but that grants an advantage in future turns. Tiles are auctioned in this game.The below shows a four player game underway.

Tigris and Euphrates uses tiles to represent rising and falling civilizations, as well as support for factional leaders. Tiles are randomly drawn here.

Suburbia has a market to purchase tiles, which represent a very SimCity type abstraction. Certain tiles will trigger effects in others inherently, others through adjacency. This player has a lot of industry. There's a semirandom set of stacks for each of the three phases of the game.

Galaxy Trucker uses randomly drawn(1 at a time) tiles to build ships that well, are going to fall apart. The real question is how badly. Can you get to the finish line with your ship? While the game has 3 heats officially, there's a good experience in one race.

Taluva uses tiles to build a single  volcanic island that players are vying for control of . The tiles even have volcanoes that enable the game to be built up, which allows more building types. Tiles are randomly drawn, and are also tri-hexes.

Escape: The Curse of the Temple uses tiles in real time(the game takes 10 minutes once setup) as exploration sites. The players have to work together to move, find jewels, and the way out. Tiles are drawn from a semirandom setup.

And in Between Two Cities, players are drafting tiles and build a city with each neighbor. The initial draw for two of the rounds is random, and the middle phase is  draw three, play one in each of your  cities. Yes, the players are sitting between the cities. This is a feature of the game, not a bug.

There are a lot of other games with tile laying out there, some simpler, and some certainly more popular. These are some of the more interesting ones I've come across. This is without going into the giant mess that would look too much alike for most of 4x games with hexes.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Injustice Magazine Review: Cirsova #6

Cower not, fierce reader! This day we have an excellent collection of heroic fiction. If you've not read any of Cirsova yet, here's some of what you've been missing! There will be spoilers.


The Last Job on Harz by Tyler Young- A pair of investigators are sent to a check into some peculiarities on a mining planet. They find a cross between mad science and corporate greed threatening the colonists. The subsequent cover up and later revelation are excellent.

The Magelords of Ruach by Abraham Strongjohn- This is a rich story, feeling much like a old pulp sf story. In some ways I am reminded of ERB's Venus or Mars books, and our protagonist measures up to that in  his friendships and actions. Our space princess gets her own share of time, and has a great strength of endurance. Oh yeah, there's evil magi enslaving people and spiderfolk.

Short Stories

Death on the Moon by Spencer E. Hart- A bit of a noir detective story, told on the moon. Cool and smokey, with hints of underworld scum and SpaceNazi aftertaste.

The Battlefield of Keres by Jim Breyfogle- Treasure hunters with a bet, a fantastic battlefield filled with magical hazards ages after the fact, and storms and demons.

Othan, Vandal by Kurt Magnus- A story of a thief for hire, a rich dying man, and a tribe with a treasured jewel. Reads as though a hard luck Conan story.

Temple of the Beast by Harold R. Thompson- A mysterious creature sought after by men of adventure, a local cult, and death fill this measure of cryptozoological enterprise.

Tear Down the Stars by Adrian Cole- A far future science fantasy tale of hidden cities, brotherly betrayal, death cults seeking oblivion of worlds, and hidden legacies.

If these are not enough for you, there is one more piece:

My Name is John Carter(part 5) by James Hutchings- Look, this is pretty much amazing for those of us that like poetry and Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars.

How do I put my final thoughts?

Oh, yeah. If you haven't been reading Cirsova yet, you're missing out. And this issue is a shining jewel in the library, for which I am proud to have been a backer. 9 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Injustice Comics Review: Astro City- Honor Guard and Reflections

Cower not, fierce reader! This day, in the spirit of the comic book discussions going on, we will look at two recent volumes from Astro City, written by Kurt Busiek. I mention the name because he is very much a liberal, and there are some times when his view intrude enough to hurt the stories. Gladly, these volumes have a lesser amount and are more story fitting than the ones in the past.

First, a quick note about Astro City, what it is and how it is presented. Astro City is not part of any other comics universe, but feels like some of the best bits of any hero comics you've read. This is very much on purpose. A big part of  Astro City is that the stories feel like Stan Lee or Jack Kirby stories, only written to matter.  Another BIG point is the fact that Astro City is always written to let people in at the start of a story arc. Oh, and the stories are not necessarily in chronological order. Don't worry about continuity or characters, you'll get it.

So, Astro City: Honor Guard has a bunch of short stories in it. The first is in many ways feels like a cross between an Atom story, and a multiple worlds in peril JLA or Avengers story. It's about the events leading up to the death of Stormhawk of the Honor Guard, how the people of a microscopic world inadvertently created the circumstances that led to his death.

We also have a late life story of the  mystical/comsic powered Starfighter, and see glimpses of an ERB style world of adventure. After this, there's a story of Wolf Spider, encountering his childhood fictional heroes and regretting it. Hummingbird confronts the magic and gods of another world that granted her both power and a curse, with a few feminist notes. Then we have a series of attacks by the Living Nightmare, but who or what is giving him fear?

Lastly, we have in this volume a story of American Chibi, where we find her home and the dark powers that are pushing against the barriers to reality. A quick word here: this volume has a lot of origin stories for Astro City. And while they ususally provide an origin story for each character focused on, this just has a lot of new foci. But, overall, really entertaining.

Astro City: Reflections goes a different route, and brings us back to characters we've already seen, though you still don't need those stories to follow these. This volume has three tales, and all of them have familiar notes.

A powerless member of the First Family has been kidnapped by one of their intergalactic foes. The family goes to rescue her  from these near constant enemies. The story is told following a child of the alien enemy.

Samaritan has been having bad dreams. Visiting the Fursts, he is told that he must stay for 24 hours so they can target the cause. Heroes around the world cover for him, and the cause of his dreams is found and manifested.

Steeljack, once a villain, has been hired to uncover who's been framing retired crooks. We visit with street punks, gadget refabbers, and take a meal.

While early Astro City volumes are a bit better, it's still some of the best hero storytelling out there right now. These sit at 8 of 10 fell deeds each

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Castalia House, about those book covers...

They're really good these days. So I've got to ask: When are you going to find a way for us to get posters of this great art?

The Moth & Cobweb covers started out meh, but then you found a stellar artist. Appendix N has art by the same gentleman. Your print editions for Mr. Grant's Maxwell Saga has new and attractive art. The Rod Walker covers are great fun, and the Kalsi and Cheah cover look wonderful. You could also use this to rerelease the alternate cover Corrosion had, with the alternate author.

And I know you don't own the art for some, like Mr. Van Creveld's nonfiction books, Mr. Grant's Westerns,  and Mr. Cole's that you do print editions for.  But you've got some serious art here. As one of the marks of civilization is beauty, why not sell some folios of posters? Say, selected fantasy covers, sf covers, and There Will Be War covers. Perhaps a selected fiction and nonfiction collection, with David the Good's covers, Loki's Child, Cuckservative, and more?

It's just a thought, and I don't know the rights status for these outside of books. But man, I want some of this for my walls. I'd even take a Selenoth collection and consider the map for a game store campaign, leaving it on their wall.(yes, I do remember there's a potential ACKS thing going to happen.)

Now, I'm not suggesting these for shirts, they're really detailed. Mugs, perhaps. Maybe a phone cover? I'm not a big merch guy, but I know that a lot of people are, and it would increase public awareness of the properties. And for your upcoming Faraway Wars, while I'm guessing you have a video game in the works, merch will help push that out as well, building brand awareness.

Note to indie authors and cover artists: This goes for you guys, too. If you get a big bunch of great covers, use them for marketing. Get some of the best covers you have, and sell the posters. Who does this depends on the rights, but that's for you to hash out.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Quick Game look: Villages of Valeria

A friend of mine had Valeria Card Kingdoms(maybe I'll discuss that one another time), and after playing that, I decided to try one of their other offerings, and they have two others in the same setting. Villages of Valeria is a quick and fairly complex game. Images come from BoardGameGeek.

How's it work? First big mechanism is role selection(I'll get to covering that mechanic someday). The rest of the game is resource management and tableau building. This is a lead/follow mechanic, with some interesting limiting factors as to if you can follow. There are three card types: the castle(starting card), buildings, and adventurers.

Here's a picture of a part of a tableau from a played game:

I'm going to focus on the 2 fully visible cards, one building(left) and one adventurer(right). The rules suggest that buildings of a type be tucked that way, because name, points, and effects are all of the card that matter after building.

Card breakdown for buildings: Top corners are building type and VP for game end. Just under the name of the card is its special effect(some instant, some constant, and some conditional). On the left side is the resource cost of the building when you build it. The bottom section is resources when played a different way, which I'll discuss later. The Adventurer has its effect in the same place, and on the left side is the building requirement to hire the adventurer.

Now, a glimpse of a more full tableau.

Yeah, it's further out. The two cards on the left bottom here are important. The leftmost is the role selection card, with its marker(it helps for people following/tracking turns). The next one in is the starting castle, with some buildings developed for resource availability. Now, for the roles, so the rest fits together better. Cards do change some of these.

Harvest- Draw three building cards from the face up row, or the top of its deck. Followers draw one.

Develop- Discard one card from hand. Tuck another building for its resources under your castle. Followers discard two.

Tax- Take 1 gold and draw one card. Followers draw one card.

Recruit- Pay 1 gold to recruit an adventurer to your town. Followers pay 2.

Build- Place gold on open resource spots to fill the requirements for the building, and draw a card. Followers don't draw a card.

When your turn begins, the gold on your resource spots becomes yours. This also means players can block others from being able to build  by using all the resources. If all their money is tied up in resources, recruit or build.

Now, I've only played it with two, but we played three or four games straight. I'd say it's rather light, though the iconography takes a moment to get used to. But there's a lot of variability for such a light game in here, and that's before the little expansion packs.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ok, I'm starting back up.

Sorry, folks for the absence. I've had an injury that has kept me shut in and affected my concentration this last week. Thankfully, I'm recovering, and will get back up to speed soon. Yes, I've also fallen behind on my reading. I should get back up and into my normal pacing soon; I've got a quick review set I'm partway through the reading for(unless I just split them all up), an anthology to get reviewed, and Cirsova 6 is almost ready for me to write my review(as in not done yet). Oh, yeah. I also tried out a game yesterday with two players that I want to try with more, but was really interesting.

Now, that I've gotten some of the other stuff out of the way, I posted a drawing for Rocketo just over a week ago, and received four comments on it.  And, the winner is: Man of the Atom!

I'll be contacting you shortly(maybe before you have a chance to read this).

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

On the lineup for a new comics company

Yeah, I'm going to continue from yesterday's post. Because a lot of people want to get things moving, and more of them want to write or perhaps draw, everyone wants to read, but very few want to build a whole picture.(Not that I have the funding to manage this).

Yes, the bulk of your books are going to be hero titles. Because that is the type of story that comics tells better than anything else. It's also the most expected thing. But take care to make unique characters, and not just ripoffs, though one or two will of necessity be derivative. Yeah, I don't care about your archer or gadget guy or martial artist. Shoot, use something like Mutants and Masterminds to create characters, so you've got real limits of power, and know how everything works.

But, you need some other books. In fact, I'd say close to half should not be hero titles.

Let's say you start with 10 titles. Yeah, that's a lot to manage right off. Shops won't take you very seriously without a variety. So, four or five at launch should be hero books. Perhaps 3 solo titles, one team book, and maybe an anthology for widening your world.

So you've got 5 books less. Sff/horror should be likely three of them, maybe even four. But you might want to make one for each of  the  marketing genres(yes, it's ok to play that game initially, we know it's a lie). And if you have an author that can tell a good story in it, have a western, it can be straight or weird. If you can, try for a sword and sorcery book, Robert E. Howard is still having adaptations done that move well enough, same with Edgar Rice Burroughs.

There's your 10 book start, if you can get all that. Three months after launch, you add another hero title, and maybe another sff book.Or you can add something like a spy story or a crime book. It's not like there's any restrictions on what you publish unless you want there to be.

Another note: There need to be very clear terms for writers and artists on what they're paid for, and their royalty returns for any creations they add(which would be subject to approval). This shouldn't need to be said, but as most comics guys are lousy businessmen, I'm saying it.

Yes, finding all the talent needed would be a big challenge. That's not to mention getting listed in a distributor(Daiamond right now, by default, but I know there's something in the works). And you have to build word of mouth. This in fact will require a good bit of startup money, because you want about 3 months ready to go BEFORE launch. So you can hit up a few small cons, talk to stores and readers, and show them what you're doing. Have an issue or two pre printed(not final, maybe just pencilled and lettered) to give a shop owner, so they can talk to their customers. Build Buzz.

Yeah, I put all this rant out there in the lame hopes that somebody might be paying attention and do it. Maybe even offer me a job to help keep things in line, because comics would be cool to work in. I'm not going to hold my breath, but 4 color dreams are nice.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

On the Comics Collapse. Oh, and there's going to be a giveaway.

Now, I know I haven't written about the problems within the comics industry before, despite my posts mentioning and reviewing some books, and trying to boost comics that I think are worth a look. Partly this was because I still have part of the industry that tells good stories: non-hero books are a bit less converged than hero books in general. That's not to say there isn't a lot, but I can still find stories that are well written and drawn and don't play politics all the time, or at all. There are still good stories in sff comics, and I still get an occasional action or horror book. Hero books are rare reads for me now.

But, JD Cowan, Brian Niemeier, Jon Del Arroz, and others, notably the Diversity & Comics you tube channel have laid enough groundwork that I think I should chime in with some thoughts. Unlike most of these guys, I'm more into the DC universe for my heroes, so my references will be that direction.

It's not a recent event that comics have gone downhill. This is only the most recent in many events that have hurt the industry. And sales have historically shown every bad move, not immediately in every case(variant cover fever)(death of superman). But eventually there's a sales collapse after each one of these chases of fashion that comics has done. Collectablility was a terrible thing to pursue; comics are not MTG cards, nor should they be.

Each reboot of comics universe seen changes to the world and characters. Sometimes this has strictly been to create a history that made sense. But a lot of times it's been to create "jump on" points, in the belief that people that don't read comics will magically come in if it's now issue one, and you don't need to know the character. BS! I have friends that don't read comics that think if they want to, they have to start with Action Comics #1 and read ALL OF IT. So part of it is perception; whether or not it matters now, a character's history intimidates some people.

What do they do wrong in most every reboot? They change some characters. Not refine, like add details that fit established traits and history, but change. Let's make such character GAY! When they've a long history that says nothing of the sort. You want to play that game? How about a Green Lantern that's a family man? They did it in the animated series, and the character was cool. Or a celibate Green Arrow? Oh, wait, Connor Hawke was when written by CHUCK DIXON. Too bad Connor doesn't exist anymore that I know of. My last DC title I read was All Star Western(Jonah Hex), and I quit after Booster Gold pulled him into the present.

Now, a lot of characters are being replaced by "new, relevant" versions that have NOTHING whatsoever to do with the originals. Thia has gone back to the New 52 for DC, and Marvel has been doing the same thing more recently. But when they make Superman not relate to people, they lose readers. When Martian Manhunter isn't THE common part of Justice League of America, it doesn't work, especially when they've made him untrustworthy and shifty. This is not to mention stuff like the Chinese Superman and co. they've added recently(which I have no real opinion of), especially when they had heroes everywhere in the world. But let's toss them and igonre history for lowest common denominator bs.

How hard will it be to setup an alternative distributor at this point? I have no clue, but I will say stores don't want to order from EVERY worthwhile small writer and artist self publishing. So, if comics are going to be rescued from the death SJWs are engineering, a distributor is necessary as all get out. And don't talk to me about digital and web comics. I don't have a giant screen needed to read them well, and the files are huge. Webcomics can be okay, but I prefer my books physically.  Manga isn't something I'm for or against, and I'll likely grab My Hero Academia as the anime has been good, and Mr. Cowan recommends it.

Now, to the giveaway:

I found this day at my local library's friendshop both volumes of Rocketo, which I have discussed  before. As I don't need another set, I'm going to give them away together. These are library discards, and have some wear and use.Comment  below for the giveaway, which will be drawn at random on 9/23/2017.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Alt Culture, or not.

Vox Day put up a post responding to yet another article on building another culture. Seriously. I hear about or find another article every few months.  Vox mentions the fact that conservative media has never talked about a Castalia House book. I've seen an interview in a Catholic online mag with John C. Wright that only talked about his Tor books, and this was recent. The fact is, the so called media organs of conservatism and Christianity don't benefit from helping relevant material grow. They benefit from being able to whine that the establishment is leftist and dishonest.

Music has largely been hostile to faith and conservatism for decades. Yes, there are exceptions for faith, notably country music, but that's been getting sidelined even there. But you look outside it, on FM stations? Lust filled lefty music is what you find. Oh, you want to go with classical?  You really don't know how left most of the performers are, do you? Oh yes, there are exceptions, and most of them focus on being a better musician. Look at what they do with "reimagings" of great opera: they change the setting, change character sexes, etc., and then, while you still have the story, it's being told in a manner against the original. That's ignoring the garbage pieces that get foundation and government grants. Not going into the Christian music scene.
Movies? There's plenty of lower budget stuff out there. Kevin Sorbo's done a ton when he should have been one of the current big stars. A lot of actors even just keep mostly quiet, but have their own rules which have hurt their careers. Neal McDonough is a Catholic who won't do some scenes, and it's moved his career more to supporting roles or antagonists.  But, foreign ventures like the movie Guardians prove that you don't need Hollywood itself to do good looking action films.

Books? Well, just another place where the movers and shakers mostly prefer to stay ignorant. This case, unlike music, I'm glad about. Why? Because their willful ignorance leaves a place for people like me. If those media were actually paying attention to small press and independent  authors, I'd have a much harder time with audience growth. They want to ignore anything but big NY publishing, I'll gladly fill part of that huge gap.

Now, as to other reasons aside from selling the "can we build an alternative culture" article again. Most of it comes down to the fact that people are largely lazy. I've seen it like crazy with people at church that will go to a concert of the youth pastor's cover band, but won't bother with their musician friend's group that's been working for years and building hours of music.  A lot of folks also want to be able to talk about the same entertainment as everyone else. This view of culture is the real culprit.

I won't drift very far into this, but there's a real purpose to culture, which is part of why Andrew Breitbart's statement "Politics is downstream from culture." rings true. The Thomist philosopher Josef Pieper covers it very well in his Leisure: the Basis of Culture.  And the core idea is this: Culture is a part of our worship. The town festivals and celebrations all started as HOLY DAYS, on a very local level. For centuries, the Church funded the creation of a great amount of music, architecture, sculpture, and other art, funding artists both internally and externally of Church hierarchy. Now? Most of that is done by people in "ministry" on the Protestant side, or by clergy who may or may not actually be good at the art on the Catholic side(look at modern Catholic hymnody).  While I could go further, I'm not ready for it to devolve into a rant or grow into a full fledged post on its own.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Injustic Magazine Review: Phantaxis #6

Cower not, fierce reader! This day we look at magazine that isn't looking to be pulp, but rather a normal sff magazine. That said, this read proved far more worthwhile than the last time I picked up Fantasy and Science Fiction, Analog, or Asimov's. Let's take a look at the contents.


For Hannah by Mark Bilsborough- The story is a big exercise in unrequited love. There's also a lot against male fantasizing, of the incel(involuntary celibate) type, because those guys really need to be picked on a bit more. Well, ok, it's more like the Zuckerberg type that has money, but no social skills. Kinda meh, as there's no action, but is more a drama piece, with no real conflict.

Playmates by Arlen Feldman- For the most part, this is a tender and amusing tale. There's a lot here on the moral hazard of cloning, and making the creation of life simple. The ending is a bit gut wrenching, as while the father might know who can make his life more miserable, he doesn't seem to know the joy his daughter can bring him. Again, there's no real sense of conflict, though this flows pretty well without.

Evens and Odds by Vanessa Kittle- Another cloning story, though this one is far more straightforward, and there is definitely a bit of conflict, though no action. There's another moral hazard aspect here, as well as unscrupulous businessmen.

The Ship of Theseus by Phillip Brian Hall- This was a great read. It's a detective story in a time when lifespan has been extended indefinitely, and nobody retires. This follows a detective assigned to a missing persons case, revolving around a secretive group they call pro-deathers for their rejection of immortality. We also see some philosophical discussion of the humanity of "human androids", people uploaded into android bodies.

An Infernal Malady by Michael Haynes- This story is dark. There's no conflict, action or hope. In fact, it's more a glimpse into a malevolent mystical existence.

The Home Secretary is Safe by C. R. Berry- This vignette features small scale time travel, treating it more like a puzzle. There's a small amount  of action, but again, no conflict. In many ways the story is cynical.

Daughter of the Western Winds by Jenni Wood- Hey, a story with real action and conflict, internal and external! In some ways, this feels like watching anime set in medieval Japan, perhaps earlier. The elements all seem to fit together well, and there's an interesting dichotomy between the fantastic powers in the story and the false humility of the tiered nature of the society.

The Wheel of Fortune by Matencera Wolf- Joy. A dystopian world where the lower classes have everything rationed, and our main character is seen as a worthy sacrifice for societal reform by one of the upper echelon. At least there's a minimum of action here.

F-Bombs by Allen Kuzara- While this once again has no conflict, and no real action, this does have a feel like one of the moderately interesting entries from Forbidden Thoughts.(Superversive, you guys might get in touch.) We do have a good glimpse of a father trying desperately to keep his partial custody of his daughter.

Urgent Care by Dale T. Phillips- This is the aftermath of a story. The world is very distopian, as people get violent over everything, apparently, and health care is rationed unless you can pay right now. It's an interesting glimpse.

A Guy Walks into a Bar by Russ Wartrous and Mike McHone- A fantasy story recounted in a fantasy tavern. The storyteller and listener(his friend) are not part of the story, but merely scenery of some interest in a recounting, allowing for the storyteller's embellishments.

Flash Fiction:
Honestly, this stuff is entertaining, but completely forgettable. Mostly they move you between stories a bit easier, by taking you out of setting like an ad, but without the purchase compulsion.

Final thoughts:
Phantaxis looks to sit in a very odd place in sff right now. It's an actual middle ground publication, with some material that seems to fit the establishment crowd and some that fits the puppy/castalia house/pulprev/superversive crowds. Most of the writing was pretty decent. I'll likely give it another try in the future. Even the stuff I didn't like did not drag. An actually diverse magazine. 7 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Game Mechanics: Worker Placement

This time, I'm going to go over a game mechanic that is both very standardized, and yet very diverse at the same time. There are a lot of games that use worker placement, and many of them do it in similar fashion, but now and then really unique implementations come up. Images come from BoardGame Geek.

So firstly, let's define worker placement. Boardgame Geek has a great page on it, and states that it is more properly termed "action drafting", as players are taking turns drafting actions from a commonly available pool. Most typically, this is done with meeples on actions spaces.

The image above is from Lords of Waterdeep, a Dungeons and Dragons themed Worker placement game. This game has a very simple implementation overall, where placements get resources, build buildings(add spaces), get contracts, or fill contracts(for the most part). The players are thematically the town's lords who organize groups of adventurers and send them on quests. Worker spaces are exclusive (one person gets to take the action). In addition to the physical version(with an expansion), there's now a digital implementation, available through Steam, and soon app stores(if not already).

Now, if you want something that is a bit gentler themed, how about winemaking? Viticulture plays with 6, and has variable numbers of  action spaces dependent on player count. There's also more steps to the process here, as players have to plant vines, harvest grapes, and the crush them into wine, not to mention building up your vineyard. Then you have to have the right wine(s) to fill the orders you've obtained. The game is divided into years and seasons, with certain actions being available only in season, and each worker being only available once a year.

If you're wanting a game that feels more like you're always scrambling to get it all done, Agricola is a great choice(though I think it was better with its former publisher). As medieval farmers, you have to plow fields, sow vegetables and grain, raise sheep, pigs, and cows, build fences, build your house, have kids, get occupations, and make sure everyone is fed(sometimes those animals just don't last). Agricola has a point salad method of scoring, so you want to get as much done as you can, and you can't focus on any of it, as you lose points for not getting some of these.

Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is one of a handful of games that use dice instead of meeples for your workers. The value rolled usually has some effect on its useability or usefulness. In this game, your workers also may become aware they're in a dystopia and walk off. But, as far as worker spaces, we have three types here, exclusive, replacement, and additive. Players can hinder others' progress in this game through construction of distopian buildings.

Stone Age uses dice and workers a bit differently. Each resource has a number of spaces available, and other actions have one each(two needed for reproduction). Each turn a player places worker(s) in one area. When all have been placed, each worker in a resource area grants a die to be rolled for that resource, with multiples of a number generating more(total, not on the die). You also want to build huts and collect artifacts with those resources. Below, green will roll 3 dice, blue will roll 2, and red and yellow each one die to get wood.

And for unique implementations, none have yet had the cool factor of Tzollk'in: The Mayan Calendar. This game has clock motion determining when you get things based on rotations. I can't really say more, as this is the one here I haven't played.

And last, I'm going to mention Keyflower, as it is also a worker placement game, in addition to an auction game. Only one color can be used for placement on a tile(determined by the first placement); later placements have to increase; and each tile can only hold 6 meeples. Better buildings from the auctions will encourage others to use your tiles, which will give you more meeples on later turns to use.

There's a lot out there, and many are variants of contract fulfillment or engine building, or both. But the way they do it makes for some decent choices of play, and different opportunity cost calculations.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Injustice Film Review: Batman and Harley Quinn

Now, I had read John C. Wright's half review and was very much down about this response. Then I had seen later responses on Twitter that said it was ok. I needed to watch it for myself. Thus, now you will be presented with my response to the film and JCW's half review. This will be a bit spoiler heavy, as I'm partly responding to a JCW review.

First things first, as you encounter it in the disc menu: the music is just not quite right. Also, the opening sequence has the Floronic Man killing a man, with blood shown. Not right for this story for reasons I'll hit up later(same reasons apply to music).

Now, to some of JCW's points and summary:

First, Batman blackmailing Sarge Steel over his S+M habits: I don't really mind that, but why did Sarge Steel try to banter with Batman? That's lame, this isn't a comedy presentation of Batman.

Bats criticizing cops missing evidence(no big), and Nightwing finding Harley somewhat on accident(again, no big). Though Batman usually doesn't come off as arrogant, merely assured and competent.

Mr. Wright has some issue with Nightwing fighting Harley when she started the fight. He failed to note that in the comics, Nightwing is usually pulling his punches in that type of situation. Women are a major weakness for him, and that's WHY Harley lasted long enough to hit him with the diluted Joker venom.

Umm, then there's the bondage and costume sex setup. I have issue with that, as Nightwing is a moral character for the most part. But JCW has issue with Nightwing not being able to escape, ignoring that if Harley has ever been part of a bondage scene(likely with her relations, and this presentation), she would be able to keep any escape artist tied up.

Batman walking in on them tickling each other: LAME.

Harley's gas in the Batmobile and the ex she tracks and beats up: also lame.

The barfight with the big words over the bar is a throwback to the Adam West show, which feels way off here.

And there ends JCW's comments, as he stopped watching.

He missed a great lying diatribe on global warming and deforestation. When the USA has more trees now than at its founding, they're playing crappy agenda games. And, being plant related villians that can actually talk with plants, they should know better. And focus their activities in areas that are the real polluters and destroyers of the wild.

Harley and Ivy had a ridiculous girl friendship scene after Harley had triple crossed her to try to save folks. I don't know if that's anywhere near realistic, but I don't care.

He also missed the really bad presentation of Swamp Thing. It's worshipful, he's a huge physical character and part of the Parlaiment of Trees. This was so bad. Batman would never be in awe, but understanding. Nightwing would perhaps be in awe for awhile, but he'd likely not be at this time. Floronic Man and Poison Ivy? Sure. That makes sense, but Batman and Nightwing would not worship what has been turned into a eco-Buddha.

Then there's the bit with setting the Floronic Man afire, and Harley's new show, Ask Dr. Quinn (actually a bit funny), which somehow misses the point that she did have a Psych liscence, and became Harley because she fell in love while treating the Joker.

This film had a freaking huge case of not knowing what it was. Too much was played for laughs, and I mean obvious comedy setups, not dry humor like was seen in B:TAS. There are reasons I bring this up. With casting, they harken back to that show(both Batman and Nighwing played by the same guys). Costuming and character design match pretty closely to that as well. But the rest?

The music has moments. Those moments come only when they're borrowing from the old Bruce Timm series(they borrow from Batman Beyond, even). But only moments.

The scripting and even the action feel off. In part because they're pushing a weird mixture of Adam West and TAS Batman versions, with S+M humor added. This of course ignores that the mixture, minus the S+M has already been done, and done very well with Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Fun, and funny, yet Batman takes crimefighting seriously, and is largely a serious character.

Now, part of the reasons for this terrible comprehension can be found in the special features. They seem to think Batman: The Animated Series was grim and dark. And that the Adam West Batman was pure humor and fun. To which I say, they've got it backwards. and their misunderstanding of both shows is exactly why they got it wrong.

Adam West Batman may have been a comedy, but they were dead serious about their point. The show was in many ways poking fun at the idea of Law and Order, and showing those for it to be "square". It was a show for the condescending "smart set" of its time, who thought comics were for morons, and ideas of Good and Evil likewise. This awareness does not diminish my appreciation for the show, but I was born over a decade later, and love the cheesiness of it anyway.

Batman: The Animated Series on the other hand, was a straight depiction of Good vs. Evil, and showed greatly the impact. Sure, the color palette was dark: how better to show his actions as those of light than for those to outshine him?  This Batman is clearly in some ways the same character that would run with the bomb on the docks from the Adam West film. But he doesn't bumble around, he isn't played for laughs. He's a warrior, a knight in dark armor(it's camoflage), and those make for someone people want to BE. Who wants to be the truly dark version, a corruptible vigilante for hire? No, as a kid one wants to be the shining symbol of light.

In fact if anything is dark about the show, it's the way Bruce Wayne manipulates himself for the sake of Batman's cases. And even that is played as part of the cost of being Batman. In order to be the incorruptible symbol feared by criminals, he must be a bit of a fop and a fool. At least until someone looks really closely. Is he ever really the playboy? Unlikely, but he plays it. The corrupt businessman? Nope, but you have to look at his dealings first.

Of course, this complete misunderstanding of their creations causes me a bit of concern for the next film, Gotham by Gaslight. The preview says they're adding material, which if it was Master of the World, I wouldn't care, but there's a bit of other stories that looks like they added. Catwoman from Batman: Two Faces doesn't belong here. Why must they keep playing. As Hitchcock said, "Just shoot the play."

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Star Trek: Ascendancy with five players

This past Monday, I had the opportunity to play the game with both available expansions, being the only the second chance I've had to play with more than the base box 3(the other being last year at the GenCon release, where they had early versions of the Cardassians). Not having played the game for a good while, we missed a few rules(the rulebook is well organized, but dense), but had a lot of fun regardless.

We did play with randomized turn order throughout, rather than bidding once we met up, to save time(5 players, most effectively new= long version of a long game).

The Good:

The new races have rules and technology decks that suit them perfectly. The Cardassians have to have a ship in orbit for a planet to produce for them, and the Ferengi can't build culture nodes, but can buy the resource. The ships and control nodes are unique sculpts for each race, and the player boards also are designed after the races ship consoles.

The game definitely feels richer with more players overall, though they all need to meet up to make that happen(one didn't make that happen until the end). There's a bit of desperation once the other players realize one is closing on victory, and a newfound willingness to cooperate, in the hopes of getting another turn or two to win yourself.

The Bad:

When the base box was released, Gale Force 9 had advertised September and December release dates for these faction expansions, and only released them finally at GenCon this year(9 and 6 months late). I can understand not meeting those, and the game community is pretty forgiving about that, but this hurt the game visibly in its first year. I don't know of many game groups that are three players, most sit at four to six, and that's private groups.

How did it hurt the game? If expanded, it would have reached more ratings on BoardGameGeek. Yes, a lot of people base game buying decisions just on game ratings and rankings. Its play time already keeps people away(advertised hour/player), and it doesn't need more. From the turn order cards, it looks like the plan is to eventually hit 10 factions, but I have no further evidence as the next expansion isn't a player one, but a universal foe: the Borg.


 This was a lot of fun, and I hope to get back to it sooner next time. GF9 really needs to get off their butts and meet deadlines. The longer they wait and delay, the smaller the audience for each expansion will be, and they need to strike while gamers have their wallets open.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Injustice Book Review: A Killing in Comics by Max Allan Collins

Cower not, fierce reader! This day, we look at a work a little outside our normal purview of sff and venture into a murder mystery that takes place in the early days of comics. This book  even predates a subversive praised mainstream novel that won the Pulitzer, Chabon's Adventures of Cavalier and Klay.

The first crime this book makes is the fact that the original publisher already let it go back to the author, who has enough credibility that Dover was willing to pick it up. Now, this is both a negative and positive for my view of the original publisher, as Berkley was good enough to let him have it back. But they didn't know what to do with it, or I'd have gotten and read it much sooner.

The next crime is simply from that fact. Yes, I can call it a fact when less than a yer after this history based mystery was published, litfic love Michael Chabon got a HUGE push for his Cavalier and Klay novel, which was well researched, but focused extensively on the degeneracy of the characters instead of really telling a story. Collins, on the other hand, with a history in comics(strips and book), as well as research and connections, tells a story that has characters, but not  just the characters. There's an amount of proper action, as well as amounts of romance.

The thing that gets me is that Berkley should have been playing up this book as soon as Chabon's hit. It's far more of a love letter to comics, with its flaws and all, encased in a mystery story. People of varying repute moving into a family industry and having ties to the mob with their business? And with the comics panels at chapter breaks by his longtime comics collaborator Terry Beatty, there's a lot more classic comics feel than the "realism" offered by Chabon. Collins admits the his heroes are flawed, and loves them. Chabon twists his into nothing but flaws and thinks you're a bigot if you don't like them.

Collins even writes about some of the causes of comics' decline in here, though with the belief that one could write for adults and still appeal to kids, or vice versa. But, the other thing that this offers is another argument against entryism in ANY field.

8 of 10 fell deeds

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Injustice Magazine Review: Astounding Frontiers issue 2

Cower not, fierce reader! Today we look at the second excursion into the pulp magazine field from Superversive Press. Yes, I have a couple of others I will get to soon, including Cirsova, but right now let's look at the stories here and their qualities.

Short Stories:

Dead Man Walking by Scot Washam- We've got a zombie story. But, our sole human's object is unusual, though his motive is not. I'm not sure how pulpy it is, but it is tense.

The Long Freeze(part 1) by Karl Gallagher- Hmm. Postapocalyptic adventure with two cryosleep inhabitants? Yeah, this is a bit pulpy.

The Robber Council(part 1) by Brian Niemeier- Ok, I'm not sure this is pulp, because it's a bit long in its pacing. This is also more of a historical adventure, so maybe towards the Conan/Kull type tale, but right now, we've got one very good scene, that will draw you back for more.

The Last Lesson(part1) by Russell May- Time travel stories and causality. I'm hoping it will become more of a conflict later on, but right now, it seems very one sided.


In the Seraglio of the Shiek of Mars by Ben Wheeler- We've still got a great romance here, and the pacing is poised to pick up a lot with the next installment. For now, there's the stirrings of conflict, and very much the awareness of threats.

Daughter of Sol by Cory McCleery- Well, THIS is definitely pulp. While there's no "genre mixing" (genre doesn't exist, it's marketing for people that like little boxes) yet, I wouldn't be surprised by a serious input of romance and the fantastic in addition to the already amazing space opera elements present.

Nowither by John C. Wright- Look, I read it, it was really good, but I know I'll reread when the novel gets its full release. Yeah, cool stuff here.

Galactic Outlaws by Nick Cole and Jason Anspach- More from the second of the Galaxy's Edge books. If you haven't read it, worth your while.


The Stolen Mind by M. L. Staley- Hmm. This  is intriguing, and while there is conflict, it's mostly one sided for a large chunk of the story. Also, this seems far more toward the SciPhi crowd, or the equivalent of its time. But there's still plenty of subterfuge and misdirection and desperation to save the world.

Into Space by sterner St. Paul- No real action, nevermind an active conflict, this has a lot of nice touches nonetheless. A secretive scientist and a reporter he has been friends with see the start of a new but miscalculated great experiment.

Compared to issue one, there's a great improvement in the story choices toward pulp aesthetics, especially with McCleery's entry, and all the entries are good reading. Even the cover is a better fit to the idea of pulp storytelling. I question the number of stories that ran unfinished outside the serials; mostly due to the fact that they all start this issue. The vintage stories are a good addition, though I'm a bit at a loss as to these choices (I know they're likely public domain, but a LOT should be). I'd prefer to see perhaps one action oriented story versus two that are much more "men with screwdrivers" tales.

8 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thoughts on this year's Dragon Awards(2017)

Well, I can't say I'm incredibly surprised. They did report voting numbers over twice that of the Hugos, so I'd say that makes them at least twice as representative of fandom. Now if only they'd add some categories(I'll come back to that).

As to the winners, I have only a few of real complaints. Daniel Humphreys wrote a masterpiece, and the Doctorow books I've read say there's no way he could write something that compelling.  It's a straight popularity contest, and Humphries only has two novels out so far. I get it. Swan Knight's Son is SOO GOOD, but again popularity contest, and JCW doesn't do any social media.

Now, to my big complaint: HOW ON EARTH DID THE SJW EXPANSION FOR BETRAYAL WIN? Well, I've got a couple of ideas here. As a new award, boardgamers don't care about it. In fact, I don't know that boardgamers will ever care about it as a relevant award, they care far more about reviews. Why? There's a LOT of noise in boardgames; you can find people that like anything, so you look for reviewers that like things you like. And yes, they influence the market, sometimes greatly. Hopefully, I'm starting to fill some of that niche for folks in books.

Now, as to what changes should be made?

Pull paranormal and urban out of the sff categories, possibly as a single category, maybe not. Add a best sff magazine/anthology category(it can split to two later; it's progress). Add a fan writer category, and maybe a cover category(this would be for all covers of eligible material).  Avoid editor/publisher categories. For the tabletop categories, don't allow expansions in the main category, but perhaps make an expansion category(this would include CCG sets). And if somebody wants to pull their nomination, say no; it's not about them.

Overall, I'd say things still look pretty good for the Dragon Award. Here's hoping they learned from their mistakes this year, and will refine things for next.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Quick Reviews 2.13

Cower not, fierce reader! This day we have a fine collection of tales to cause the SocJus crowd to flee in terror. We've got milsf, fantasy, unspeakable horror, and more to look at. To the guilty!

Peacemaker by Keven Ikenberry- This is a continuation of his short from For a Fistful of  Credits, though you needn't read that first to follow the novel. Yep, another Horsemen universe book, with more to come before year's end. So when do these guys start taking meetings?  Major crime: Redemption can be costly. 8 of 10 fell deeds.

King's Champion by Peter Grant- Well, we have an acient evil trying to rise again, and the champion of good isn't anywhere near his peak. Why? He's OLD, and has gotten slower. But he still holds the title of King's Champion, and all its authority. Major crime: Self sacrifice for what one loves. 9 of 10 fell deeds.

Good to the Last Drop by Declan Finn-  This is the last story for this arc, and the action is bigger than anything yet. We've got more ninjas, vampires, werewolves, cops and gangsters in the mix, and a volatile mix it is. Great place to end the set. Major crime: How Catholic does it have to be? 8 of 10 fell deeds.

Cannibal Hearts by Misha Burnett- Second of his Book of Lost Doors, this has a lot of weird. Make no mistake, there's action here as well, this is no HPL book full of academics. There's action and violence aplenty. The weird content and sexual content definitely keep this from being for everyone. Major crime: Struggling to be human and normal. 7 of 10 fell deeds

Six Gun Seranade by David J. West-  There's two stories here. The first is a Porter Rockwell tale, that follows an innocent swept up in events he can't control. The next is a tale of gambling, murder, betrayal and greed in the Weird West.  Major crime: Don't let greed get the better of you. 8 of 10 fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

SocJus and Boardgame Podcasts

Our New Friend over at the R&G for Justice blog has a post that's at least partly right. I've spent a bit of timee listening to boardgame podcasts, and well, I got better.

I can tell some of you are already thinking, "Why would the Injustice Gamer even jokingly disparage boardgame podcasts? Aren't boardgames his thing in gaming?". Yes, they are. Podcasts, on the other hand, are much less so, and I have trouble finding the time to listen even to the podcasts I would like to(Geek Gab, Catholic Geek, JimFear138, Kennings and Cantrips, Superversive). And those are people I LIKE.

But, with regards to boardgame podcasts, they tend to break down into boardgame news, what's being played, reviews, and maybe a guest. And there's nothing wrong with that. But there's a ton of podcasts, and a lot of them follow this exact set of discussion points.

And, due to the "Cult of the New" nature the hobby's culture has, many of the podcasts will discuss the same game or games in the same week. Now, we do have a chunk here where Our New Friend goes wrong. He seems to think that "similar and redundant" content(reviews) are unoriginal. Now, I will say that most game reviews follow a few standard formats, and few try to inject real personality to differentiate themselves.

That's FINE. They're reviewing boardgames. He wants more "diverse" content, and by that he states he wants diverse opinions and perspectives(which would be good), from more "diverse" people with different lived experiences. Maybe he should find some guys that like heavier games, or some blue collar gamers(I'm one). But no, by diverse, he means minorities.

Then he discusses some podcasts he listens to. And by some, I mean the five left after culling from 15 to 20. Now, I'm guessing somebody spends office hours to listen to some of these, because otherwise I have no clue how anyone listens to that many podcasts.

Here's another idea if you want actual diversity: listen to podcasts about different things, if you want that to be your media consumption. Fiction, philosophy, politics, hiking, fitness, specific games, etc. There's a whole lot of ideas out there, and if you limit yourself to one field, you limit yourself. If you're going to be a SocJus idjit, at least be a well rounded one. You might become aware of things like what Christians actually believe(including differences between denominations/sects).

But you want to focus on diversity within the hobby. Go listen to the Dice Tower, instead of your friends with the cats. What? You don't want to listen to a guy who was a missionary in Far East, and had to come back because his wife got pregnant again? So much for diversity.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.