Capsules, Round 2!

Another handful of capsule reviews as I continue to procrastinate work on longer pieces.

Image from Hallels

Something I’m watching: Legend of Korra, Book 4: Balance

I was a little nervous about the idea of a three year time skip between seasons, but it worked great, and this season is off to a tight, smart start. I’m happy to see Varrick playing a bigger role in the supporting cast again, and while I don’t like how Toph was treated in Book 3, she is awesome so far now that she’s actually appeared on-screen. It’s too early to tell for certain how well Mako’s and Korra’s characterization will fare this time around, but these first few episodes have me confident that the writers will handle them well. Something else I’ve always liked about Legend of Korra as a whole that struck me watching this new season is that the show questions a lot of standard fantasy tropes, such as the romanticization of monarchy, or the idea of one superhuman solving all of the world’s problems. Also, props to Book 4 for having the best villain since Amon. Well, at least, I think Kuvira’s supposed to be the villain, but I’m a little worried that I’m mostly agreeing with her right now. I, for one, welcome our new metalbending overlord.

Something I’ve just watched: Aldnoah.Zero, Season 1

Aldnoah.Zero started out as a good, if not great military sci-fi anime with a cool mix of Real Robots and Super Robots. It followed the paths of two young men, Inaho Kaizuka and Slaine Troyard, who find themselves on opposite sides of a Terran-Martian war, sparked by the presumed successful assassination of the Martian Princess. There was some great action and plenty of unknown motives to keep you guessing, and then…and then…it just kind of fell apart. Ironically, the moment the show stopped being Mecha-of-the-Week action and focused more on the characters, the less I realized I cared for the characters (except for Slaine; Slaine’s awesome). They were either kind of bland (Inaho “I’m too cool to really care about anything” Kaizuka), or started acting stupidly (Princess “It’s my fault people tried to assassinate me” Asseylum). Then, in the finale, things started to improve, until literally the last few minutes, when Slaine suddenly went completely out-of-character, and Inaho once again demonstrated that he’s a horrible communicator when lives are on the line. Unsure if I will return for Season 2, but with all the good anime out there, it doesn’t seem worth my time.

Something I’m playing: Magic: The Gathering Khans of Tarkir/Super Smash Brothers 3DS

Well, mostly the demo; given the choice between new video games and Magic cards, Magic invariably wins out. Plus, Khans of Tarkir limited is tons of fun. I’m stoked to see Delve making a return, and Morph turned out to be way more fun that I could have ever imagined. Raid, Prowess, and Outlast are all great as well—can’t get enough Mardu Hordechiefs, Monastery Swiftspears, or Ainok Bond-Kin—but I’m not as into Ferocious. For one thing, Ferocious sounds odd as an ability word; given that most players use these words like nouns, I think Ferocity would have been better. Second, I’m just not a huge fan of ‘Power/Toughness matters’ effects; too dependent on certain creatures staying alive.

Anyways, back to Super Smash Brothers. It translates well to the handheld controls, and the movements are nice and fluid. I do wish I was playing it on a 3DS XL though, as the larger screen size on my friend’s makes it look even better. Dash attacks are a neat addition, as is the lightning that flashes onscreen whenever someone gets smashed. I’m also loving some of the updates to past characters (stronger adult Link, and Zero Suit Samus’ up-B actually being a recovery move as well as a badass flying kick, are highlights) and a lot of the new characters (Megaman and The Villager are tons of fun, and Shulk looks to be insane in the hands of a skilled player).

Something I’m anticipating: Magic: The Gathering Strategy Board Game

IT’S BASICALLY HEROSCAPE BUT WITH MAGIC CARDS TOO AND COOL LITTLE PLANESWALKER FIGURES CURSE YOU GENCON ’15 WHY MUST YOU BE SO FAR AWAY. *Ahem* Link to video from Essen here.

Something I’m working on: “The Color Wheel and the Cross, or, The Magic of Orthodoxy”

In which I examine Catholic philosophy through Magic‘s color pie, and explore the idea that while fantasy Xtianity is represented in Magic by White, the real Church is all five colors, and straying too far into any one color results in error, with examples drawn from historical heresies. A pure White Church, would, for example, be Calvinistic.

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Posted on October 21, 2014, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hmmm… curious how you’ll work black in there seeing as how it rejects authority. Though it would make sense for protestants or orthodox faiths (no pope for us!).

    So you are enjoying Khans? I mostly play casual magic (picking up their duel decks, playing duels on the computer… etc) with my only CCG focus nowadays being L5R, but the board game sound interesting. *sigh* I do miss LotR and ST2e sometimes though.

  2. I’m honing in more on Black’s individualistic aspect: whether you embrace grace or damnation is entirely up to you (in contrast with Calvinism), and there is a great deal of freedom in the Church in regards to the way each Catholic approaches his private spiritual life and unique vocation. As Chesterton points out, the brevity of the Ten Commandments indicates that only a little is forbidden, and much is permitted. Going too far into Black (none blacker, if you will) results in things like Pelagianism (rejecting even the need for grace), and people concocting weird spiritualities without any kind of guidance from the Church (like that fellow years ago on Wright’s blog who thought the Church ought to have a theology of magic). And, as you say, Protestantism, which ironically, I have been thinking more of as a Church gone too White (for people who reject authority, they seem to have a lot more rules more often than not).

    Khans is fantastic. I love how it’s riffing on a lot of Asian cultures, rather than just one culture, a la Theros or Kamigawa. I think this will give the theme more longevity over the block, as I got tired of opening packs of centaurs, satyrs, and dryads pretty quickly. The limited environment is great, though the high average toughness of the set means a lot of games go pretty long as you stare at each other over your walls of tanks until someone topdecks a way to break through (which is why I draft all the removal and evasive critters I can get). I can’t speak much for Khans Standard, as I swore off Standard after my beloved Izzet deck rotated out with Khans, though I dabbled in one Friday Night Magic with a red aggro deck consisting chiefly of commons and uncommons.

    I always thought the LotR CCG looked fun. I loved the Twilight Pool mechanic and the card frame designs. I’ve never played it though. I’m a sucker for old things, so when it came time to pick a LotR card game, I tracked down (well actually, asked St. Nick for) the old, out of print, Middle-Earth CCG by Iron Crown Enterprises. The fact that it predated the movies was also a draw for me. Unfortunately, it’s movement mechanics are far less streamlined than LotR’s, and require either a map or uber-fanboy levels of Middle-Earth geography knowledge to use, so it’s been impossible to find other players for. Luckily, it plays pretty well as a solitaire game. Have you played any of Fantasy Flight’s new LotR LCG? I’ve perused the rules and it looks pretty solid. Not sure what I think about the look and feel of the cards though. They strike me as a bit too modern fantasy looking.

    • I might come back to magic but I love the LotR:CCG so much I can’t resist a chance to talk about it…

      I’d be happy to play you in the old CCG any time. It’s mechanics were just so BEAUTIFUL and the card design 2nd to none… I wish someone would bring it back somehow. (heck AEG has brought back Doomtown, maybe…) I had a few posts on it on my blog… ah here they are. I played it during college with some of my best friends ever and had some of the most fun ever, it holds a very warm place in my heart.

      I’ve see the LCG, but I’m not a big Fantasy Flight fan (I think they often over-complicate and accessorize their games) and if they didn’t bring back the twilight pool (even if the books/movies have ruined that term) and side flip mechanics I just couldn’t get into it. I do play the LotR Deck building games for fun since it’s pretty basic and quick.

  3. Loved your “How it could have been” article; it warms the cockles of my nerd heart to see someone putting so much thought into a favorite CCG. I’d be glad to do a Tolkien CCG game day sometime (we could do a triple game review on our blogs afterwards). I’ve read the rules for Fantasy Flight’s game, and alas!, the twilight pool is gone, replaced with a generic mana system (meh) and a pretty cool threat dial system (not meh). It’s a cooperative players vs. shadow deck game, so there is also no side flipping, which was something I liked about both previous games; designing your hazard strategy in the Middle-Earth CCG was just as fun as designing the heroic part of your deck (and cramming in as many named dragons as your sideboard could afford).

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